22 April, 2019

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Surveillance And Intimidation Of Election Meetings By Armed Actors

By Savitri Goonesekere and Jayantha Dhanapala 0n behalf of Friday Forum

Prof Savitri Goonesekere

A delegation of the Friday Forum met recently with the Commissioner of Elections Mr Mahinda Deshapriya with a view to initiating a constructive exchange of views on measures taken by him to ensure free and fair provincial elections.  Mr. Deshapriya emphasised the responsibilities of the public and the voters in these elections to be vigilant and to make their own contribution to a free and fair electoral process. In light of these discussions and the Friday Forum’s commitment to democratic and free and fair elections, we wish to place the following concerns before the public.The changes in election procedures over a period of time, and public disillusionment with regard to the electoral process, have created an unfortunate environment where there is some public apathy in regard to our rights and responsibilities as voters. The forthcoming Provincial Council elections in the Northern Province, North Western Province and Central Province are important for democratic and accountable governance in those provinces. Yet it is critically important that voters in these provinces go to the polls and exercise their voting rights, and these voters and the public are engaged with the electoral process. The politicisation of institutions, misuse of state resources, election violence, and the deterioration of our political culture have been the subject of frequent public comment. The current election process is an opportunity to address those concerns and pro-actively work towards holding the government accountable to ensure free and fair elections. A free and fair election process is the very foundation of democracy and must be considered an essential aspect of accountable governance.

Elections are an opportunity for debates about a viable and positive future. As such, election campaigning that exploits the hopes of marginalised populations towards cynical electoral ends, undermines the democratic commitment of the people. Furthermore, campaigns should avoid polarisation, “particularly rhetoric that may further aggravate ethnic relations and caste oppression”.

The Friday Forum has consistently advocated devolution as a critically important dimension of peace and reconciliation in the aftermath of the prolonged armed conflict.  Conducting free and fair elections to the Northern Provincial Council will be an indicator of the government’s commitment to devolution, particularly in a context where these elections are being held many years after the end of the war.  The Friday Forum and others have expressed concern that despite assurances of the government to the contrary, the military continues to play a powerful role in civil administration in the North even four years after the end of the war.  Democratisation of governance after a period of armed conflict necessarily involves de-militarisation.  A provincial government will soon be elected in the North. The independence of that civil administration and public confidence in it has to begin with citizens’ engagement in electoral politics.  The public and the state must together ensure a free and fair, violence free election environment from the outset through to election day and in the post election period. The military must therefore have neither a presence nor a role both during the electoral process and after, and national security must not be used as an excuse to undermine the civil administration and the role and responsibilities of the Election Commissioner’s office.

Recent elections in the country have been accompanied by incidents of intimidation and violence including intra party violence.  In this context the public and civil society need to work closely with election monitoring organisations, informing the Elections Commissioner of any such incidents.  Respect and support for the office of the Elections Commissioner are crucial to free and fair elections.  The important role and responsibilities of election monitors must be understood and supported by voters and the public.  They should report, if necessary with anonymity, to the Elections Commissioner and the elections monitors any violations of elections law, including those relating to misuse of posters and state property, biased and unethical media reporting, or any actions of political parties or candidates seeking to influence voting by the distribution of monetary or other rewards, acts of thuggery such as stealing of voting cards, or voter intimidation.

The public must call on all political parties and their candidates to respect the rule of law and to act in accordance with democratic values on free and fair elections.  The legitimacy of political parties and candidates as seekers of public office through a system of popular elections must surely be based on the manner in which they conduct themselves during elections. They must not engage in empty rhetoric but demonstrate by their conduct a commitment to free and fair elections. Political parties must ensure that persons suspected or charged with unlawful or unethical conduct or detained for serious offences before, during and after the elections, will not be given nominations at future elections.

Friday Forum calls on the Government to disarm all unauthorised armed security personnel as well as paramilitary actors. Surveillance and intimidation of election meetings by any armed actor is a serious a violation of the principle of equality at elections.

The Friday Forum calls on public servants and officials in all public institutions of the state to fulfil their responsibilities to ensure free and fair elections.  Interference by powerful state and non state actors close to candidates must not be tolerated. State resources must not be misused as such handouts in the lead up to elections are the equivalent of corruption, imposing individual responsibility on those who permit such misuse.

We as members of the public must also support efforts to enforce election law so that the elections of those responsible for malpractices will be challenged and nullified by election petitions and court orders.

The Friday Forum appeals to the media which has a special responsibility to ensure unbiased and ethical reporting in the run up to the elections, and at the conclusion of the electoral process.  They must use their professional role to support the Elections Commissioner’s office in ensuring strict adherence to election laws and procedures and free and fair elections.

We also call upon civil society networks, religious and community organisations and the general public to be engaged and vigilant, and actively support the office of the Elections Commission and elections monitors.  We fervently hope that these crucial Provincial Council elections including in the North will set new norms and standards on democratic, free and fair elections in our country.

Jayantha Dhanapala  and Professor Savitri Goonesekere,

On behalf of Friday Forum, the Group of Concerned Citizens

Mr. Jayantha Dhanapala, Professor Savitri Goonesekere, Rt. Reverend Duleep de Chickera, Ms. Manouri Muttetuwegama, Professor Arjuna Aluwihare, Mr. Ahilan Kadirgamar, Mr. Tissa Jayatilaka,  Dr. Upatissa Pethiyagoda, Dr. A. C. Visvalingam, Professor  Camena Gunaratne,  Mr. Javid Yusuf, Ms, Damaris Wickramasekera, Ms. Suriya Wickremasinghe, Dr. Geedreck Usvatte-aratchi,                       Ms. Anne Abayasekara, Dr. Jayampathy Wickramaratne, Ms. Shanthi Dias, Ms. Sithie Tiruchelvam, Mr. Faiz-ur Rahman, Mr. J. C. Weliamuna, Mr. Ranjit Fernando, Mr. Danesh Casie Chetty, Dr. Devanesan Nesiah, Mr. Chandra Jayaratne

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Latest comments

  • 0
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    Good stuff – there is need for a massive voter education campaign since most folk think the elections amount to democracy when in fact Rajapassa uses elections to promote a facade of democracy while Gota the Goon constructs a DEEP STATE or STATE WITHIN A STATE (as in Turkey and Egypt)to consolidate his MILITARY DICTATORSHIP..

    MR, his Cabinet of clowns and Parliament of knaves, fools, criminals, thugs, murderers and leftist geriatrics is merely the expensive FACADE OF DEMOCRACY in Lanka today..

    In the context hope this statement is published in Sinhala and Tamil media.. and more effort spent by the NGO community to EDUCATE VOTERS to vote responsibly.. and protest the practice of Staggered elections.

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      FACADE OF DEMOCRACY with criminals contesting in showcase elections is indeed what there is in Sri Lanka today covering the uneducated Rajapass dictatorship of criminal thugs..

      Politicians and military are being heaped with gifts and perks by the Rajapassa brothers and being developed as a NEW CASTE.

      A NEW caste hierarchy and system with Caste or occupation based groups such as politicians and military being at the top and breaking all the laws is the post-war CASTE SYSTEM in feudalistic Debacle of Asia. This new Rajapassa CASTE SYSTEM MUST BE DESTROYED. The country must be demilitarized and the Rajapassa dictatorship toppled.

  • 0
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    Dumindas transported to the North?
    http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=36598
    [TamilNet, Wednesday, 28 August 2013, 06:45 GMT]
    A clash between two factions of the SL President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s UPFA alliance in Jaffna ended up in gunfire on Tuesday in Thenmaraadchi, Jaffna. SLFP Jaffna organiser Mr Ankajan Ramanathan’s group and Mr Saravananthan’s group in Thenmaraadchi were chasing each other in vehicles, from Kodikaamam to Chaavakach-cheari. At the end, Saravananthan’s squad smashed vehicles belonging to Ankajan’s squad. Ankajan’s father Ramanathan, who was armed with a handgun, opened fire on Sarvananthan’s group, seriously wounding a Saravananthan supporter, the sources further said. Ankajan’s’s gang was also behind the death threat to a TNA candidate in Jaffna, Mr Thambirasa.

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    http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=36553
    [TamilNet, Monday, 12 August 2013, 23:43 GMT]
    The intelligence operatives of the occupying Sri Lankan military in Mannaar have been visiting the houses of candidates of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) taking part in the provincial elections and ‘registering’ the personal data, their affiliations and details of the family members in an intimidating way, the candidates taking part in the Northern Provincial Council elections say. Some of the ‘visits’ have taken place during the nights.

  • 0
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    What is the caste oppresssion this Professosor on about?.

    Is it an Election malpractice?

    Which electorates / provinces is this prevalent?.

    • 0
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      Sumane
      The main theme of the essay is about ensuring free and fair elections. If you want to know about caste oppression, please ask wimal Aiya
      Do not ask questions for the sake of asking them especially from a professor!

      • 0
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        Kenny mate,

        Isn’t the job of Professors to enlighten ordinary punters?.

        This professor woudn’t mention caste oppression if there is none.

        Most captives of the LTTE at the final stage are non Vellalas and poor ones.

        All the rest took refuge in more comfortable environments.

        The self claimed leaders of the catives who have taken charge to look after them now , are of course all Vellalas, who are well off ones,and totally domiciled in the Elitist Turf in Colombo.

        There must be local non Vellalas and not that well off ones for obvious reasons, who have put their hands up to represent the ex captives among the 300 odd candidates.

        Surely these candidates have the right to differentiate themselves from the TNA imports who are now even more cashed up with Diaspora Dollars,

        Can this differentiation be classed as a malpractice in our Election Rule Book?..

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          “Professor’ s job to enlighten the ordinary punters”

          Your sympathy towards oppressed castes worries me. I see this as an attempt to dilute the strength and quality of tamil polity.Our main stream politicians have set such bad precedence irrespective of their caste or creed.

          Therefore it is important to change the culture of our thinking. In the election scenerio whether it is held in north or south, country needs to have checks and balances to prevent majority vote swaying against the common good of the country.

          Once the checks and balances are in place caste and racial prejudices should gradually wane with time. Unfortunately we are proud of our moral values, but show scant regard to rules and sayings of learned men and women.

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    Hats off to the Friday Forum for being so duty concious. The public has to appreciate their work and rally round them to rid this country of violence and dictatorship of the Rajapakses.The members of the Friday Forum are learned academics respected nationally and internationally.

  • 0
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    “the military continues to play a powerful role in civil administration in the North even four years after the end of the war”
    Could the Forum give examples without making a general statements?

  • 0
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    Sri Lanka has never had a fully free and fair election since independence.
    Every election has been flawed in one way or another.
    Now the government with the aid of the army is determined to subvert the election in the north in favour of the UPFA candidates.
    There is more to come.
    There will be thuggery,intimidation,bribery,sabotage of transport of voters, misuse of state resources and,interfearence in polling & counting of ballots.
    The Elections Commissioner dares not interfere.
    Private parties allied to UPFA candidates,have fired weapons at political opponents,in the region dominated by the army.
    EPDP goons have attacked TNA candidates who visited Delft for election campaigning.
    But,hardly any mention in the state media..

  • 0
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    MR is a Dictator without doubt – the more the Election he conducts with
    18th Amendment in force, the more powerful he gets. No. of Elections
    held is not the yardstick, as the more appropriate term should be
    “Manipultions” and not Elections!

    • 0
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      100% Correct. I suggest to BOYCOT all future elections (by ALL the oppostion parties and Indipents who are against the Govt.) holding under 18th amendment, until Govt. go back to 17th with more TEETH to Commissioner of Elections, as in India.

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    “Furthermore, campaigns should avoid polarisation, “particularly rhetoric that may further aggravate ethnic relations and caste oppression”.”

    Then first ask banning all Tamils only or Muslims only political parties.

    This is simply Preaching. It is easy to preach and action is the most difficult.

    Suggest some practical solutions one by one.

    How does preaching stops decades old all kinds of malpractices ?

    • 0
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      Jim Nutty:
      You are an idiot.

      • 0
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        Peer:
        PLEASE don’t insult “idiots.”

  • 0
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    Idiot SLFP senior clowns who supports the rajavassas seem to be blind by the fact that rajavassas are slowly killing the senior SLFP leaders by using puppets like dumind and mervin silvas.

  • 0
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    When will this Friday group write against the present election system which allows only crooks and criminals to get into the party list?

    As long as crooks contest there will be violence. Also use NGO money to film army working for govt candidates. Make a video.

    • 0
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      Spot on! A huge swathe of election violence and malpractice will disappear if criminals and thugs and/or their proxies are denied a place on party lists or of standing at all. When will proper vetting of candidates become a sine qua non?

    • 0
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      Why don’t at least some of these forum people contest an election ? It is well and good to talk but unfortunately all most academics can do is to present the theoretical answers.

      Do something practical…use you world renowned credibility to make a difference.

  • 0
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    In all due respect to you and FF,I am truly dissapointed.You place too much reponsibility on the people.This excludes the Governments stooges and cohorts.

    At the meeting did the GOSL ask FF to send out such a letter.
    What LAW are we to follow? Show us.The Law as we know is made and broken by the government itself.So we have no Law to keep and follow.

    Funny isin’t it?
    In our country anyone who follows the Law or abide by the LAw is W.vanned,kidnapped,murdered or raped.So how does FF expect the people to keep the law?

    Respect the Law-It is in shreds.IF we are out there and learned proffesors plan to come later you will not find us.We would be already frisked and taken for a ride,sometimes never to return.So do not ask us to keep the LAW.
    Keep the Laww for a free and fair elections ?.Excuse us FF- Is this a joke.
    The government makes the LAW and they have to uphold the LAW.
    Get the police and army to keep the law.
    Also the rural people will not understand the learned peoples logic that is–if this letter reaches them and somebdy reads it and explains it to them.

    What measures have you taken to send this letter to the public of Sri Lanka.

    The Law is a joke in Sri Lanka.With intimidations by the government goons the voters are in fear.
    Whose Law is it to be upheld.
    How can the people uphold the LAW of the country when the army and Police and cohorts break it.

    Please change the words by the people to Government and their cohorts.
    It is a sad situation that the learned proffesors of FF decided to send out this letter.

    • 0
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      hannah.rajaratnam:
      You are right. These are elitists writing for other elitists and a tiny group of admirers.
      THEIR MEDIA RELEASES DO NOTHING TO CHANGE WHAT IS HAPPENING IN SL TODAY. WHAT IS WORSE THEY ARE INTELLIGENT ENOUGH TO KNOW HOW USELESS THIS KIND OF THING IS.

  • 0
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    Dr. Professor Goonesekere

    Its always refreshing to hear from you and to read your publications. I salute you as Sri Lanka’s foremost academic. Despite the vicious slander against you by Mr. Ratnajeevan Hoole, you have continued to represent the conscience of the Ceylonese intelligentsia irrespective of race, caste or creed. Please continue to write either as the spokesperson for the esteemed Friday Forum or in your own learned capacity.

  • 0
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    Professor,
    We stand by you. But today China is dictating terms in a manner to shatter the rule of law and the military is in control of the entire country. We cannot expect justice. Election Commissioner is helpless.

  • 0
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    What about giving cover-ups for family dept in Colombo university and its key robber Emeritus.

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