30 September, 2020

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Jaffna Counting Centre Drama: Sumanthiran Clarifies Position

Dramatic scenes unfolded outside the Jaffna Central College main counting center early Friday (7) night when ITAK candidate Shashikala Raviraj alleged that the preferential vote count was tampered with and accused TNA Spokesman M.A. Sumanthiran of tampering with the preferential vote count at the eleventh hour.

Shashikala Raviraj is the wife of slain TULF Parliamentarian S. Raviraj who was assassinated in 2006.

Sumanthiran

In an emotional Facebook posting Praveena Raviraj daughter of the candidate and slain MP claimed that they had been “unofficially” informed that her mother has polled the second highest number of preferential votes in the Jaffna District and would enter Parliament as a TNA MP. The final vote tally had reflected a different picture she claimed, with Sumanthiran who was also contesting in the Jaffna District “nowhere near 4th place” suddenly becoming the second highest preferential vote taker. The daughter of MP Raviraj also made a grave charge against the TNA spokesman, saying he had been witnessed along with a ITAK provincial council member sitting with elections officers in the final counting area.

The chronology of events surrounding this bizarre charge against the TNA spokesman began with rumours swirling on social media that Sumanthiran had lost his seat in Jaffna. Several key influencers in the Tamil community posted about unofficial results also showing that Shashikala Raviraj had won a seat in Parliament on the ITAK ticket.

Colombo Telegraph learns that Mrs Raviraj and her family even received congratulatory phone calls about her victory, a message that was repeatedly reinforced as the counting process continued. Long before the official elected MP list was released, Colombo was buzzing with rumours that Sumanthiran had lost the election as a result of the social media campaign.

However when the results were eventually published by the Jaffna election officials, Sumanthiran was No 2 on the ITAK Jaffna list, holding the same position he held on his party’s list at the last poll, although he received considerably fewer preferential votes. In fact Mrs Raviraj was placed fourth on the ITAK Jaffna list behind Dharmalingam Sidharthan the leader of PLOTE.

Crowds had gathered outside the Jaffna Central College as news was released that Mrs Raviraj eventually had not won a seat, angry protestors whipped into a frenzy by an overactive rumour mill tried to breach the counting centre doors. Police stepped in to stop the crowds from entering the counting centre which would have had its results declared invalid if a disturbance took place, Sumanthiran told reporters in Jaffna yesterday.

Explaining how the counting works after an election, the TNA Spokesman said that counting was done at different locations and brought to the electoral district’s primary counting centre – in this case Jaffna Central College.

Sumanthiran explained that when an agent brings his own polling division’s result to the main counting centre, the total preference order changes depending on which candidate has polled well in that particular division. “This is very normal and nothing is final until all the results are in” he added.

“Each counting booth has agents from all parties and results are finalised only after their verification and agreement,” the TNA Spokesman said.

He added that his agents had consistently told him that he had polled No 1 or No 2 in every polling division. “If you look at the result this fact can be verified. But I was open to any result. There were suggestions that I might lose as well and I was open to this possibility.

He specifically noted that Candidates and their representatives are fully entitled to enter Counting Stations to hear the results. Colombo Telegraph learns that it is common for candidates to enter the counting centres in order to ensure requests for recounts are heard and clarifications can be sought and that this is a regular occurrence all over the country while preference votes are being counted.

Subsequently videos were released on several news media including websites showing police assaulting crowds outside the main Counting Centre. Other views also appeared of weeping members of Mrs Raviraj’s family and the candidate herself accusing Sumanthiran of stealing the vote. Another video emerged of Sumanthiran being escorted to his vehicle as the crowds hurled insults, portraying him as seeking security from the Government.

Sources in Jaffna told Colombo Telegraph that the dramatic scenes at the counting center in Jaffna was linked to a vicious offensive to jeopardize Sumanthiran’s re-election campaign that has been ongoing for two months. The offensive followed an interview Sumanthiran did in Sinhala with TV personality Chamuditha Samarawickrema which quickly turned controversial for the Tamil politico in the North with colleagues in the TNA itself denouncing his statements after hardline Tamil groups and media aligned with those groups launched a massive campaign to discredit the TNA Spokesman within his constituency as one who undermined the Tamil liberation struggle. Sumanthiran’s moderate credentials, international stature and appeal to southern moderates have made the TNA Spokesman powerful enemies in the hardline circuit, observers of Tamil politics told Colombo Telegraph. Defeating Sumanthiran at the election became the primary objective of these groups who have consistently maintained that the TNA spokesman’s policy of appeasing the south is aimed at personal gain rather than taking care of his constituency. Interestingly some of these hardline Tamil groups continue to be linked to the ruling party SLPP. Sumanthiran who holds moderate views and has consistently eschewed violence and separatism poses a threat to the Sinhala extremist project owned and operated by the Rajapaksa Government which must portray every Tamil politician a pro-Tiger, a Jaffna-based political analyst told Colombo Telegraph.

Political observers also noted that it was a shame Mrs Raviraj and her family had been put through this very emotional ordeal. Praveena Raviraj followed up with a second Facebook post in which she alleged that the TNA Leader R. Sampanthan had refused to take their calls on Thursday night. “Sumanthiran was the lawyer for the Raviraj family in the murder case, looking after their interests. He was very much in support of Mrs Raviraj being given nominations to contest under ITAK. He has regularly called for greater female representation on the ITAK ticket – so why would he try to do such a thing to her?” one political activist questioned. The activist added that the Elections Commission should clarify the matter and assure all parties that there was no discrepancy or distortion in the results because the allegation was a grave one and could throw doubt on the integrity of the count and counting officials.

The following is Sumanthiran’s full statement on the issue at a press conference held in Jaffna on Friday:

The allegations are very strange.

Counting is done at different locations and brought to the electoral district’s primary counting centre. Each counting booth has agents from all parties. Results are finalised only after their verification and agreement.

When an agent brings his polling division’s result to the main counting centre the preference order changes depending on who polled well in that particular division.

This is very normal and nothing is final until all results are in.

My agents consistently told me that I am either first or second in every division. If you look at the result this fact can be verified. But I was open to any result. There were suggestions that I might lose as well and I was open to this possibility.

We were following the news on social media. At one point allegation that I was stealing the victory of fellow candidate Tharmalingam Siddharthan got floated. He was at the Jaffna Central College, the primary counting centre, with a crowd. The crowd was alleging that I had stolen his seat. Later, video showed him speaking to the Returning Officer for Jaffna, the Government Agent. I was at home during all of this.

I never went to the counting area. Not this time. Not previously when I contested. I was at home the whole day.

After 12 AM, on 07 August, when I received news that the results were about to be announced, I visited the announcement area. I went because last time, too, all the contestants went to the same place and the Returning Officer read the result out to us. The Returning Officer was seated at his desk. I sat away from him and did not speak to him. While I was inside fellow contestant Mrs. Sashikala Raviraj came in and spoke to the Returning Officer. She had spoken to him earlier as well. Contestants speaking to the Returning Officer is not unusual. I was waiting for the results to be announced. But the announcement was being delayed – for reasons unknown to me.

At this point a mob tried to enter the building forcefully and was blocked and chased away by the police on duty. This was necessary. All the ballot boxes was inside that building and any vandalization would have called the election in to question. Once the mob was cleared, I came back home.

Usually, defeated contestant accuses the contestant directly ahead of him/her. On this occasion, however, the person who finished fourth (Mrs. Raviraj) is placing allegations against me – who polled the second highest number of votes and 4000 votes ahead of the third placed Mr. Siddharthan. Between Siddharthan and Raviraj the gap is in the few hundreds. The entire story is bizarre.

In any case, the way our ballot counting is done there is absolutely no room for foul play.

I do not want to comment on the conduct of Mrs. Raviraj during this election campaign. She was our party’s female candidate. She was also a first time contestant. It is regrettable that she has lost.”

(By Chinthika de Silva)

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Latest comments

  • 2
    1

    Mr.Venugopal, I do not dispute SJ as Mr. Know it all. He may be smart but not at the expense of making others look fool. You may be naive , not to notice his intentions of putting one against other, just like current ITAK / TNA leaders. Also if he thought “I said so” is not so appropriate, then in his view people like David, Rajan, Keetha Poncalan and others are arrogant and pompous to give their opinion and later claim to be right. I have never seen Mr. Know it all write any of his own opinion , other than pick on others.

    • 1
      1

      Dear Chive

      We can make counter argument (in our case discussions) is what is all about. None of us have to write our own theories as we just “commoners” exchanging thoughts to make sense of what happen in our life in our Nation.

      For example when I overstep the lines also SJ was very specific to draw the boundaries so we do not unfairly trample onto others rights/feelings…and in the process loose the argument/point…where no one benefit from the input.

      I am all for this kind of future as our past always has been based on not being challenged in a healthy way “can easy be carried away and make our alternate universe if facts” does not serve any cause correct and applies to me too??

      SJ and people alike are a breath of fresh air in a world where no one contribute enough to truths anymore specially this is a disservice to our history in effect as the (1) ones who knows the history correctly is getting older and will not be there forever so the facts are lost (2) we have based lot of things/actions/responses based on information that was drilled into us by politicians/media/parties in the last 70 years not sure how correct most of them are has affected our Nation beyond repair.

    • 2
      1

      C
      I am not flattered even if you mean what you said about what I know.
      I can say with confidence that I know enough to recognize attempts to pull the wool over other people’s faces.
      My comment on ‘I said so’ was in response to the person who was trolling me.
      I was poking fun at him as he seems more of an “admirer” of you and not any of the others listed; and you too seemed to take him seriously.
      No offence intended, it was a dig at the troll.
      *
      True. Many people say “As I said so…”
      Kumar David is notorious. I have reminded him about some of his “said sos” that never worked?
      I do not read Keetha P very much, but I have noticed that he does. Which Rajan? Hoole or Philips? The troll does not even notice any but Kumar David whom he attacks not very cleverly.

      • 2
        1

        C
        Try not to impute motives to people, as it will not take long for another to do it to you.
        And you should know that you are not the most polite person around.
        *
        When one wishes to make a fool of himself/herself with offensive remarks, especially hate speech, it is a waste to try to reform such bigotry. At times, I help the person to achieve that end.

  • 2
    2

    (3) I purposely put out my Fathers name for example to test the water after observing many discussions on CT comment sections were innocently based on what we have learned as facts in effect fictions we were fed…and many more benefits.

    In addition SJ always indicate/counter argue should there be a need from SJ’s prospective as and when required as his right too….but SJ looks for fairness to all has to be respected in how talk to each others too. Good old days teachers remember them…I know of few great teachers who were killed by the gun trotting kids in Jaffna for standing unpo the misbehaviour by the children…good old disciplined life that was all lost when the politicians lost there responsibilities in a democracy…..a worst form of child abuse then in Jaffna so openly……..justifications…..something happened 20 000 year ago/100 years ago/30 years ago……and we were suppose to talk about their future and not our political ambitions correct…..so is critical we have a fact checker even attached to every MP’s too now we have the technology…….then again I doubled checked my Fathers details in the wikipedia and is very misleading too and did n to carry any data critical to the SL political analysis/history??

  • 2
    0

    Mr.Venugopal, this will be my last comment on SJ with you because there are plenty more happening right now in Lanka. Like the world Guinness record created by our learned public in electing Rajapaksas family members, and nominating them into governing cabinet. I hear no country as achieved such feat through elections or other non democratic means. CONGRATULATIONS on that. The international and social media seems to be waking up to this comedy ,buzzing with news, views,memes and lot of others. Even Trump, the ultimate leader hearing this was apparently ruing ” if Rajapaksas could why he is not allowed to bring his whole family into governing cabinet”. I prefer responding directly to SJ,than we having a discussion on him.

    • 1
      0

      Dear Chiv

      It is very unfair what you just did

      (1) You discussed someone else with me itself not normal…since it was SJ I commented.

      (2) Then you sight there are so many other issues as you do not have time for this??? then you talk about Rajapaksas and congratulate me????

      You have committed a very serious slander on me doing this and now the motive am confused………is as fraudulent as the others you accuse of the wrongdoings?

      What all the politics there in the world has to do with me for stating my own politics Chiv??

    • 2
      0

      C
      “I prefer responding directly to SJ,than we having a discussion on him.”
      Excellent.
      But it was your public discussion of SJ that, to your ire, drew poor TV into it.

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