An interview with the co-chairman, People's Action For Free and Fair Election (PAFFREL), regarding the matters of forthcoming provincial council polls...
PA & UNP Responsible
for Wayamba Polls Plunder !
Q: Your organization has condemned the Northwestern Provincial Council Election as the worst polls plunder happened in the recent history. But to whom do you point your allegations ?
A: Actually the two main political parties are responsible for what happened at Wayamba. One question was, having given an unnecessary importance to that Provincial Council Election. A group of ministers were assigned to organize PA campaign for polls in the two districts. And each of the MPís allowed doing whatever on their own to gain victory within 10 of the neighbouring electorates. UNP did the same in their side. They assigned their most aggressive ex-ministers and MPís where the PA has appointed the most aggressive organizers. But towards the end of election campaign UNP understood that they couldnít compete with PA like that. Then they called their batallions off the battlefield. Even if the govt didnít engage in polls plunder those UNP leaders might have done that. So the both sides deserve the allegations.
Q: It is discussed in the society that the "preferance votes system" has caused the violent activities. What is your opinion ?
A: No, Not only that. Such complains by the candidates usually come up after the drclaring of election results. Som eof them may complain "there were 5000 preferance votes at first but now it is lesser" etc. Last time there were such incidents in Kurunegala. The competition among the candidatesí occures owing to the preferance vote system. There is rigging and hindrances against voters.
There is a problem with the preferance vote system. For instance, the candidates exhibit posters with their numbers printed. But it is against the election law. It happens owing to this preferance system. But when consider your party, the Peopleís Liberation Front, you do not exhibit numbers pleading for preferance votes. No violations of election law. But I see pasting posters is an innocent act. For the prevailing election system it is essential. The thing is 78 constitutional reforms have changed the election system except the election law. So are the punishment procedures. Punishment for an act of casting a false ballot is merely a fine of 200-300 rupees or a 3-month imprisonment. It is essential to reform the election regulations.
Q: Do you expect that the situation may change only by changing the election law ?
A: That question arises within the new election culture. Some people say that the National Identity Card must be made compulsary for voting. All these are the opinions of people. Without fulfilling their requests nothing happens. No change may occur without providing a suitable environment forfree and fair election. When the total number of ballots are casted by 9 am and the voters are chased away without letting to come to the polling stations, what is tobe spoken about the faireness ? Each voter takes 2-3 minutes for casting his or her vote. That makes 3-4 hours for 1200-1300 votes to be casted. But at Wayamba, in some polling stations within 1-2 hours, the total number of votes was stuffed. This is nothing but taking the whole democratic system as a joke.
Q: "The power of Election Commissioner to control this situation is purposely hindered" I say. What do you think ?
A: Election Commissioner is by any means, acts under the president. There arises a question whether the prevailing powers are used or not. Merely rejecting 212 ballot boxes is not fair.
There were incidents of stuffings of which are not reported in "z -reports" since the mob had threatened the polling officers. They were prevented from reporting the violent events by means of threatening. There were about 200 other ballot boxes subjected to rigging, of which even the log entries were not done owing to threats.
Q: Another 5 provincial council polls are scheduled to be held by beginning of the month of April. Will there be any difference than the recent election... What does your monitoring so far reveals ?
A: Itís difficult to comment so early. Actually at the beginning, we didnít expect this much of polls plunder at Wayamba. Same thing may happen in different appearence. I do not understand why the Commissioner of Elections does not take proper actions. If he canít perform his duty, he can explin the reason. For instance, whether or not the police acted fairly enough. But I do not believe that. In some instances police officers did their duty well.
One another big problem was, not allowing the candidates and supporters to use their rights of democracy. They were hindered in different ways. Best example is the experience at Pannala. It was disgusting. If they mean to act against the thuggery and malpractices of UNP, why do they attack and obstruct JVP ?
Q: Some political elements are jealous of the honor and credit, JVP obtained by facing the Wayamba polls with an immense example for their political discipline. So they are trying to create violent incidents and complain at the nearest police station, accusing JVP responsible for the violence. In such a situation how can this affect the election violence monitoring process ?
A: We never include police reports as our monitoring reports. What we get via fax or post also are checked and rechecked using our agents monitoring. Thatís why I say that, out of the complains sent to us during the Wayamba polls, what the JVP sent were 100% accurate. What the UNP sent were 50% correct and PA never sent complains.
Q: Within these circumstances, what is your opinion about the votersí responsibility ?
A: We know what the voters did at Chandanagama. Having aware of that the ballot boxes do not contain their true votes, they unanimously decided to burn the ballot box. That is one thing. On the other hand the voters must be aware of the power that their vote represents. They must keep their spirits up. If the voter is discouraged and he or she is prevented even from going to the polling stations, somebody else would take the opportunity for rigging. People themselves must get organized. If all the candidates do not deserve their vote, only they can declare an invalid vote. At least that must be done to stop rigging. Main thing is you yourself have to use your vote for expressing your selection.
Q: What is your message to the people those who are getting ready to face the forthcoming Provincial Council Polls ?
A: People must be aware of the persons who are going to represent them in the Provincial Councils. Then they must decide to whom they are going to vote.
This is a good opportunity for our people to preserve their democratic rights. This could be a turning point, for there is possible visible change. For instance Wayamba polls made us aware that, that type of an election is also possible in our country. But it should not continue, I suppose. If we do not make this a critical turning point for that politics, each of us is going to face the unfavorable outcomes! q