“I would kindly request you to take steps to confine the military to the barracks now itself and remove the biggest obstacle to the conduct of a free and fair poll on the 21st of September 2013.” R Sampanthan the Parliamentary Group Leader of the TNA wrote to the President Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday.
We publish below the letter in full;
9th September 2013
HE Mahinda Rajapakshe,
President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka,
Provincial Council Elections to the Northern Province
I write with reference to the above Elections due to be held on the 21st of September 2013.
You are aware that we and many others have consistently raised the issue of the heavily militarized atmosphere in the Northern Province, which is not at all conducive to the holding of a free and fair election. What has been objectionable even before the announcement of the polls is not only the presence of the military but the fact that they without invitation engage with the civilian population in many exclusively civilian matters. This involvement has continued even after the Election was announced and has also strayed well into election related activities. The rumor that the military has nominated some candidates on the Government Party, i.e., UPFA list is fuelled by soldiers pasting posters promoting those candidates and guarding such posters from being torn down even by election officials. There was at least one instance when we made a written complaint that the army was distributing building materials to the voters at Navanthurai, Jaffna, with hoardings of some candidates kept in the background. A photograph showing a candidate physically participating in this event with the army was published in a newspaper. The election officials who visited the scene found the allegation to be true but were not able to stop it. These are only but a few glaring examples of the blatant manner in which the military is now engaged in the election campaign for the Government Party, UPFA. It is also a matter of record that at least three of our candidates were threatened by the army on the day we submitted our nominations.
In this background and otherwise, it is clear that there cannot be a free and fair election if the military continues its interfering presence in the Northern Province. It has thus become imperative for me to ask you to relegate the army and the other security forces to the barracks immediately and leave the maintenance of law and order in the hands of the Police. There is real apprehension that the military involvement will increase in the coming days and will serve to dissuade voters from going out and casting their votes on Election Day. It is rumored that the army is already discouraging the local populace from voting on the 21st.
Therefore I would kindly request you to take steps to confine the military to the barracks now itself and remove the biggest obstacle to the conduct of a free and fair poll on the 21st of September 2013.
Parliamentary Group Leader, TNA
President, Ilankai Tamil Arasu Kadchi (ITAK)