- Timely Action By EC
Timely action taken by the Elections Commissioner’s Department was able to prevent election violations by creating a fear psychosis amongst the voters in the Jaffna Peninsula and in Trincomalee district on the elections day, Leader of the Akhila Ilankai Tamil Mahasabha and former MP Dr. K Vigneswaran said.
Hailing the Elections Commissioner (EC) Mahinda Deshapriya and his officials for taking quick action to ensure the voters their safety in casting their votes in Jaffna peninsula and in the Trincomalee district, Dr. Vigneswaran described how the previous regime tried to stop the Tamils from voting at the presidential election.
“Knowing that most of the Tamils wanted a change of regime as the government did not deliver what they promised to the Tamils, army personnel in civil was deployed in every nook and corner in the peninsula to prevent the voters going to vote. Even there were instances, these army personnel has asked the voters to cast their vote for one person and if they do not wish to carry out the army instruction, not to vote,” Dr. Vigneswaran said.
Dr. Vigneswaran who was one of the authorised polling agents in Jaffna at the presidential election revealed how the army personnel were deployed in Jaffna and navy personnel in Trincomalee district to carry out a mission entrusted to them by their superiors to prevent the voters from casting their vote for the common opposition candidate.
“I do not blame the army personnel who were present in the peninsula as they had to carry out orders of their superiors. The then government knew that the majority Tamil vote was for the common candidate and the army’s presence in the area in civil was to discourage the voters who wanted to vote for the common opposition candidate,” Dr. Vigneswaran said.
According to Dr. Vigneswaran, as the ground situation started to deteriorate, the situation was immediately brought to the notice of the Elections Commissioner to look into the matter.
“When the Elections Commissioner was informed of this, he immediately sent a group of around 200 election officers to Jaffana peninsula and on the elections day they went to each village and made a public announcement not to worry about any intimidation and wanted them to cast their franchise without any fear. They also told the voters that there is no way the officials at the polling booths could know to whom the people have cast their vote and ensured their safety. This announcement gained the confidence of the Tamils and they started coming out of their houses in numbers and went to cast their votes,” Dr. Vigneswarana added.
He further said that the election officials were able to persuade the army personnel who were on street on civil to go back to their camps as their presence was not necessary.
“The election officials questioned these army personnel, checked their identity cards and warned them not to be present on the roads and get back to the camps which they had to abide. Isn’t it an intimidation to put the army soldiers in civil on most of the roads from 7am on the Election Day? Allegations have been leveled against the army for the bomb blast at Vadamarachchi on Election Day to bring back the fear they had before the end of the war. When they found that the people were going to vote with the assurance given to them by the election officials the then government followed yet another failed strategy through a TV channel which is a government controlled television channel in the north. This is the only cable TV in the peninsula as all other channels have been barred by the government in order to prevent news and information reaching the people in the north,” Dr. Vigneswaran alleged.
“They went on making an announcement on the elections day that the elections commissioner’s department has extended the voting hours to 6pm and requested the voters that there is no necessity to rush to the polling booths and the voters to take their time and go to vote after 4pm. As this was misleading and the elections department has not made such an announcement, the Assistant Commissioner Elections in Jaffna immediately warned the station to stop the misleading announcement,” Dr. Vigneswaran claimed.
We had to give an assurance to the northern voters that we will protect them
– Assistant Elections Commissioner Sivasubramanium AchchuthanSpeaking on how the officers of the Elections Department went to every nook and corner in Jaffna peninsula to encourage the voters to cast their votes, Assistant Elections Commissioner Sivasubramanium Achchuthan said they had to travel all over Jaffna peninsula to encourage the voters to cast their vote and to assure them that no one can observe to whom they are voting for.
“The voters were in fear that those who were present at the polling booth could observe to whom they voted. We had to tell them that it is not true and also to tell the people that not only the national identity card (NIC) is accepted at the election booths but other recognised identification documents as well. The government run TV channel in Jaffna was repeatedly announcing that only the NIC is valid to cast the vote in order to discourage the voters. I had to interfere with this and stop these misleading announcements,” Achchuthan said.
The TV channel made misleading announcements
Assistant Election Commissioner Jaffna, Ponnuthurai KuganathanSpeaking to The Sunday Leader, the Assistant Elections Commissioner said how a TV channel which is government controlled attempted to manipulate the election by misleading the voters who do not have access to any other information other than this station.
“When I was informed about this announcement, I consulted the Elections Commissioner in Colombo and got his instructions. I was asked to warn this TV station and to instruct them to stop the misleading announcement immediately. Following the Election Commissioner’s instructions I got this TV station to stop the announcement immediately,” Assistant Election Commissioner Kuganathan said.