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NW(Wayamba) Provincial Elections and

Polls Plunder

It is accepted that the Wayamba Provincial Council Election is the worst experience among the polls plunder occurred in the Sri Lankan history. That experience, with its organized manner and the cabinet ministers' involvement, have forced us to doubt even the fading reminiscence of the expectations on the democratic system. However we have to note our views on the pollls plunder happened in Wayamba.

In 1994 People's Alliance (PA) and its leader Chandrika Bandaranayake Kumaratunge gave lots of promises to the people of Sri Lanka to replace the existed murderous rule with a democratic govt. After 17 years of United National Party (UNP) terror had no choice except voting for the PA. What the people dreamt of never appeared in reality. Just as People's Liberation Front (JVP) and some other leftists predicted PA led by Chandrika Bandaranayake could grow into another terror performing worse illegal actions against people's democratic rights.

But it could be reminded that some of the Sri Lankan citizens agreed that prediction and voted for their only alternative to the JVP representation.

Not long after Chandrika's PA dovt came to power it devoured the life of an Ansell-Lanka worker. Next a fisherman was shot to death in Iranawila. Again a resident of Norochcholai became the target. A fasting-farmer of Embilipitiya was the next prey of PA govt. The farmers' appeal was not granted even after that sacrifice. Workers of Blue-Diamond and some other factories had to suffer injuries and physical disabilities owing to violent suppression unleashed on their protests for rights. The students who protested for the protection of free educational rights were attacked by the govt police.

The Local Council Polls held in 1997 revealed the path in which the PA govt is progressing. Total of the violence incidents were 2241 and it includes 6 killings. PA was responsible for 1026 incidents and 4 killings. But the actual violent activities led by the PA leaders were not uncovered since they were planned so. Following the victory of Local Councils Polls the Chandrika Bandaranayake promoted the MPs and deputy ministers who involved in election violence. From then on the 'Chandrika Terror' rule came into being. The executive presidential power is used for the sake of govt's favour. Police and thug units were used to attacking civilian's protests. Teachers, doctors, govt employees and other sectors of the working class were accused as a whole. Without trying to find out where and what is the fault the president accused that the working people's protests are coups of the opposition. The polls of cooperative unions took the lives of two innocents. Serial killings at Matale, Tangalle, Negombo and Anamaduwa are known to be done by the PA supporters backed by the PA regional leaders. After the nomination day for the Waymba polls, the violence level ran higher. PA leadership understood that a defeat at Wyamba will definitely become a massive blow to their govt and they knew the consequences will be a challenge to govt's power.

So the election campaign of PA was given to the hands of ministers and deputy ministers who are known for their violence related politics. Jeyaraj Fernandopulle, S.B. Dissanayake, Mahinda Rajapakse, D.M. Jayaratne and Berty Premalal Dissanayake were in the top of the list. PA election campaign in different regions were administered by these politicians. By the day before election the highest number of violence incidents were reported from the areas where these ministers handled. More than thousand state vehicles were reportedly used in the polls plunder. The official note books for the vehicles are noted as these vehicles are taken for the services of officers and ministers. Diesel bills paid for these vehicles had altogether cost tens thousands of rupees. As the employees of Lakehouse (govt owned newspaper agency) reveals, the PA election propaganda material printed by their institution may cost about 10 million rupees. For about 4 years in power, no construction work was launched in public interest in Wayamba province. But during the times of election propaganda campaign, there were showers of new projects including the new university given to Wayamba. However the reports say that by the election day the deaths in Wayamba election movement tolled beyond 300.

Election Day Violence

We don't think that the election day violence can be separated from the pre-election violence. All of them affected the election which should be free and fare to be a violent polls plunder. On the election day both PA and UNP performed their plans against democratic rights of Wayamba people. Most of the clashes were between PA and UNP supporters as well as among the candidates of the same party. When examined the violence activities occurred on the election day the responsibility for most of them goes to PA ministers and their supporters. Reports prepared by the JVP polling station representatives, independent observers, police reports and other type of observation reports have proved our opinion.

Each and every violent incident happened in Wayamba discouraged the people of their right of voting. Majority of the voters who did not have close ties with any of the political line decided not to vote long before the election day. This was a big problem to the side of People's Liberation Front and other leftist parties. Since the members and supporters of JVP are known among the others, they were reluctant and feeling unsafe to go to the polling stations. Those supporters were the targets of PA mob since it was obvious that the hopeless voters had no other choice but to vote for JVP. The election campaign representative of JVP reported the party that most of the supporters decided earlier not to go to polling station even. Within the existing terror they were not sure the consequences of their going to the polling stations. They might become the targets of PA mob on the same day or later. Non of the means used by the PA supporters for safety could be used by the JVPers. PA supporters had the political power and the cover from the security forces. Police was instructed not to stop PA supporters' vehicles with or without numberplates. In some cases, officers in charge at the police posts were given the vehicle numbers which are not to be checked or stopped at any cost. These vehicles were used to transport underworld thugs, weapons, fake ballot papers and the ballot boxes which are previously sealed after filling. Within such a state-violence situation the JVP supporters had one and only choice, not to interfere in the polls plunder. This has disowned JVP some thousands of votes.

But this did not affect the UNP. Since the UNP did not stay out of the violence and since they openly challenged PA mob using their familiar (violent)ways, their supporters were not much affected. They also had the power of fight-back using their own thugs. Actually the thug politics is introduced by UNP. As they had the fit enough ways and means of facing state violence, their supporters did not face any insecurity. If there were any few discouraged UNPers it did not affect the number of total UNP votes. From the nomination day until the elections day their were 160 violent activities reported as responsible by the UNP. That is no less a half when compared to 310 violations of law by the PAers. However this process of violent events affected to generate disregard among the public about Wayamba provincial polls. The PA could raise the number of votes that they were supposed to get in a free and fare election. In other words "PA could hold a certain amount of votes which they were supposed to lose owing to their 4 year corrupt rule" In a free and fare election, the number of votes that these two parties would get should be lesser than what they got in the 1997 Local Council Polls. But that was changed by the violent activities and counter violence by both the UNP and PA engaged in.

No one deny the fact that Wyamba election was the worst type of corruption related polls in the Sri Lankan history. That day the cabinet ministers directly interfere in the polling fraud. Thugs that they took from outside Wayamba and state vehicles with or without number-plates were used in this polls plunder. In previous polls plundered, UNP mostly used under the carpet tactics. All those things against fare-play of democracy were done covertly. But during this Wayamba polls, PA supporters did not dare to engage in those crimes in front of public eyes.

Polls Plunder

Workers of several state institutions reports that about a thousand official vehicles were used in the polls plunder. Out of the corruption acts for which responsibility goes to PA the worst is stuffing the ballet boxes using political intimidation. The polling officers(POs) were threatened pointing firearms at them and policemen were helpless since they were not independent enough to take actions. As reported to the JVP headquarters the POs even did not dare to not down and report such incidents on their log-books. They were afraid or not courageous enough to complain about the crimes openly committed by the govt backed rogues. As reported half of the intimidation acts occurred in the polling stations are not reported properly.

Polls fraud as we see can be categorized into following types.

01. Stuffing the ballot boxes using the marked ballot papers, which were officially stamped and taken by force.

02. Stuffing the ballot boxes using the marked ballot papers taken by force even without getting stamped.

03. Stuffing the boxes with the false ballot papers that were printed and marked earlier.

04. Using the ballot papers which were under the names of dead, gone abroad and "missing in action"(MIAs) at war

05. Using ballot papers which were stolen or taken by force, for stuffing

06. Stuffing ballot boxes using others ballot papers taken by force from the POs possession

 

It is clearly reported that PA has used each and every tactics of the above six. In the first type, the false ballot papers are identified if the POs report the numbers of the ballot papers used by the criminals. Then only the Counting Officers can use their power (if they dare) to remove the false ballots from the counting table. Without POs' reports the counting officers can't take action even they can identify the false ones. In most cases of PA's winning by 15000-20000 higher votes, are caused by this type of malpractices.

In the second type of crimes, counting officers can clearly find which are the false ballots but the partial counting officers may support his or her favour without being honest to their duty. Second and third types were the most popular tactics used by the previous UNP regime. Now the PA too continues on the same path. And 4-5-6 types of rigging too are learnt by PA from the previous UNP regime. PA used thug units to organize the polls plunder to activate those tactics. Their party organizers previously send their supporters in a house to house campaign in the guise of a survey. There they listed the names and other information in the election registry, of those who are dead, gone abroad and MIA at war. Later they estimated the amount of ballots to be taken in favour of their victory by rigging. By these collected information and estimates, they could assign the thug bands for the polls plunder in each polling station. It should be believed that they used even computers to conclude these calculations precisely.

Polling officers and counting officers could use their power to suppress the process of such illegal activities. But they themselves did not dare to challenge the state power and thug units assigned by cabinet ministers orders. Actually they were not ready to go to the "accident wards" for too much loyalty in the duty they were assigned. So this polls plunder happened to be a peaceful one.

The Impartiality if the

Elections Commissioner

Elections Commissioner sent a letter with a summary of the reported details of Violence incidents of Wayamba Provincial Council Polls to the secretaries of political parties. According to him,

Kurunegala District

1. Stuffing the ballot boxes using official ballot papers which were taken from people by force.-103 polling stations

2. Mob have stuffed 5660 ballot papers in another 17 polling stations using ballot papers taken from POs by force

3. One incident of firing is reported and what was burnt is not mentioned

Puttlam District

1. Stuffing ballot papers using a known amount of ballot papers taken by force - 18 polling stations

2. Stuffing of boxes by force and the amount not mentioned - 43 polling stations

3. The number of stations where either the stuffing by force or amount not mentioned is - 06

4. In 3 stations the PO reports that the boxes were filled using ballot papers brought from outside.

5. Only one station is mentioned as false ballot papers were stuffed into the ballot box.

 

In another of the reports the commissioner indicates the polling stations where either ballot boxes were stolen or destroyed(burnt)

Kurunegala District

a. Yapahuwa Electorate

1. Pallekele K.V.

 

b. Kuliyapitiya Electorate

1. Atampola K.V.

2. Arakyala Muslim school

3. Kurunegala Muslim Centrla College

4. Meddeketiya (Muslim) K.V.

 

c. Polgahawela Electorate

1. Ranjanagama Public Hall

2. Gothatuwegedara Nursery school

Puttlam District

a. Puttlam Electorate

1. Thigali (Muslim) K.V.

2. Govt. Roman Catholic K.V.of Ettale

These reports are based on the reports which were submitted by the POs who dared to do so. Even in these reports some information are not properly admitted.

However, we assume that such information on the Wayamba Polls Plunder, can be categorized into following sections.

1. Reports in which the intimidation acts are properly admitted

2. Reports which are incompletely prepared

3. Owing to the threatens to POs no reports were submitted

4. No reports or reports of misinformation by the partial POs

The Election Commissioner's report based on these reports, reveal that more than 40000 false ballots came from 192 polling stations. But the commissioner does not accept that the rejection of 40000 ballots from counting makes the output result unfair since 40000 citizens (practically the number is higher) are deprived from using their right of ballot. Specially, these false ballots were stuffed in when the voters were obstructed against going to the polling stations.

The polls plunder has resulted increasing the Total Vote taken by PA at Wayamba Province in 1994. (But any independent analyst would accept that compared to '94 PA govt is less popular now)

General Elections 1994 - 513402

Presidential ,, 1994 - 569633

Local Council ,, 1997 - 509915

Provincial ,, ,, 1999 - 566153

The Elections Commissioner did not take action even to rehold the elections for the polling stations where the ballot boxes were disappeared. This reveals that impartiality of the commissioner as described in the verdict given by the high court regarding the postponement of Polls in Five Provincial Councils.

After the election the independent organizations (PAFFREL, CMEV etc) who monitored the Wayamba Polls presented their brief reports revealing the real capacity of PA's Polls Plunder. Members of these monitoring groups were really the ones who backed PA for the victory in 1994 General Elections. (Those days they spoke of a humane face to be given to open economy by giving state power to the PA) But now they have uncovered the real face of the PA. Once they did that PA leaders have accused the monitoring groups that they are UNPers and further nicknamed them as "Dollar Seekers". Being a minister of an unpopular govt which spends its 4th year in power, D. M. Jayaratne the Secretary to PA, counter attacks the accusers as members of an opposition created coup. He doesn't accept that the politically aware persons understand that what govt's popularity level and in fact it should be revealed in an election. However, surprising thing is that the (Wayamba)vote PA got in 1994 is increased now! Even what they got in 1997(Local Council Polls) is increased by 60000.(Of course PA did same type of a polls plunder in'97 too) This indicates the capacity of rigging that PA organized at Wayamba.

But if the next elections to be won within this type of unpopularity, PA must engage their thugs in a worse plunder of vote. It will pave the way to fierce anti democratic conditions to come. So there will be no solution unless the progressive people in Sri Lanka do not take steps immediately to protect their democratic rights.

Redpower - FEBRUARY 1999