15 August, 2020

Blog

The Army In Elections

By S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole

Prof. Ratnajeevan Hoole

The Army in Elections: Unacceptably Intrusive

Elections are soon due in the Syrian Arab Republic, Sri Lanka, Belarus, Montenegro, Iran and New Zealand. 

From responses solicited by ACE, the Electoral Knowledge Network (with several heavy-weight affiliates like the UNDP, IFES, etc), most of the experts are in agreement that the military in an electoral process should be used sparingly; limited to security issues and not interfere in the electoral process. It is also important that voters and other stakeholders have sufficient trust in the military if their role is to be seen as legitimate.

Several experts also stress that where the military is employed in an electoral process, it is imperative that it falls under the command of the electoral management body (EMB). The example of the 2006 Venezuelan presidential election is given as one where there was friction over the chain of command and soldiers did not always follow civilian orders as they should have.

Although the military was used extensively in the 1994 South African elections, no norms for its use were established by the Independent Electoral Commission. One practitioner sees the Bangladeshi military’s leading role in a massive voter registration effort as justified because of its unparalleled logistical capacity and good reputation. 

Writing of “Election as Warfare: Militarization of Elections and Nigeria,” Dr. Azeez Olaniyan and Olumuyiwa Babatunde Amao of Ekiti State University and University of Otago, respectively, have an important paper in International Affairs Forum (Spring 2015). They state that one major issue emerging from the governorship elections conducted in the Ekiti and Osun States of Nigeria is the presence of heavy security forces during their conduct. Platoons of security operatives, including military officers, were drafted to lock down the states shortly before, during and immediately after the elections. It had immediate consequences on peoples’ rights and freedom. Members of the opposition were specifically targeted. They submit that the deployment of the armed forces for the maintenance of law and order during elections cannot be legally justified.

They further recommend that the government should consider strengthening the capacity of its police units to discharge its constitutional role of ensuring internal security in the country, particularly during the conduct of elections, which are largely civic by nature and orientation. 

Sri Lanka’s Stand: Trust and Legitimacy

We and New Zealand can boast the longest experience in elections among the countries where elections are due soon.

During the local government elections, the army was deployed extensively in the North and a bit less elsewhere. The EC, unlike in South Africa, firmly stated that the police should do all security work and informed the then President so. After some delay, a day or two before polling the President withdrew the army and the vacuum was filled by the police. The elections went ahead peacefully.

Trusting the Military

Further, during Commission deliberations, it became evident that there is little trust in the military or faith in the legitimacy of its role in elections. Among Tamils there is widespread mistrust in and fear of the forces, even the police. This is evident in how the EC’s Tamil and Sinhalese drivers deal with the police when stopped. After the killings of Tamils (over 40,000 by the UN and over 100,000 by friends who lived through it, while many Sinhalese have their heads buried ostrich-like in the sand) Tamils fear the armed forces. Recognizing the reluctance of Tamils to argue with Sinhalese when there are violations, as a matter of policy the Commission is deliberately ensuring that Sinhalese election officials and remarkably brave Tamil officials are deployed during elections to expected trouble-spots in the North-East.

Most notable is a particular Tamil official who effectively obstructed mischievous ministers and politicians during provincial elections in 2013. There is a determined campaign to ensure that he is put under a cloud by writing complaints against him. When tracked, the complainants are not found at the addresses given. The charge that he was selling cement permits and curfew passes fell flat when no pass could be traced to him and his family shop was found to be not dealing with cement. That is the nature of those who were stopped in their track when they used the government machinery to cheat the people in 2013.

A New President, a New Election, Re-experiencing 2013

We are facing a presidential election now under a new president. We are returning to 2013 when monitors warned “the systematic misuse of state resources, notably of the Ministry of Economic Development, to benefit pro-government candidates, and the deliberate violation of election law through combining development activities with election campaigning have irreparably flawed the democratic process.” We seem set to relive those hellish times as those with the rulers and helping them split votes ignore laws, sure of impunity.

Being a military man, our new President inducted the military even for traffic regulation in Colombo. Many unthinkingly found it praiseworthy since even in Colombo motorists obeyed the army; little realizing the doors they were thereby opening widely to the detriment of our democracy. 

The Island reports “Constitutional Council Member Constitutional Council member, Javed Yusuf, [on 8 July] threw his weight behind a fresh initiative by civil society grouping, Freedom: People’s Collective Project, to prevent the ruling SLPP from securing a two-thirds majority to abolish the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.”

As expected, the deployment of the military, especially in the North, expanded rapidly as democracy is rolled back. Member of Parliament Ms. Shanthi Sriskantharasa, has complained to GA/Jaffna at a public meeting  that Intelligence personnel are visiting the homes of candidates and asking them where they are travelling to and where their meetings are scheduled. In law, a candidate has to inform the police only if using a loudspeaker but Tamil candidates are scared to tell this to the intelligence personnel interrogating them. 

While intelligence personnel are so bullying Tamil candidates, the army has put up check-points everywhere. Our Commission officers have immense authority, but even they are stopped by the army and their vehicles examined. Our ACE for Kilinochchi, a new recruit, was stopped twice on the 5 July and was forced by soldiers to open his motor-car dicky twice. He grumbled to friends but when reporters questioned him, he denied it in fear. I have verified from two sources that it happened twice on Sunday 5 July 2020 on the road from Batticaloa to Kilinochchi. That is how fear grips Tamil election officers and how they will report any rigging by the army. Many Tamil officials when complaints are taken to them respond with empty excuses like there is no proof when proof is offered to them, no action can be taken about Facebook posts, getting election material blessed at a temple is private worship, etc.

Our system-integrity depends on our brave officers like K. Kandeepan (ACE, Mullaitivu) who on his own initiative is going about taking photos and filing complaints; and our J. Jeniton (ACE Mannar). A night ago, Mannar MP Charles Nirmalanathan’s vehicle was travelling in Mullaitivu District carrying little pocket-cards advertising him to be given to voters. They are legitimate; only posters are prohibited. The military stopped the vehicle and confiscated the cards. Nirmalanathan has pluck. He did not walk away calling the soldiers Sir as I see many high-ranking Tamils doing. He  called up Jeniton, who told the army that such work is the job of the police and not the military’s. The police got involved and asked for the illegally confiscated cards to be returned. The EC Chairman promised me a commendation to Jeniton.

Increasing Lawlessness

On Wednesday 17 June the Commission met the President. Two key promises he made are that the army would not be deployed and instead the police would be used,  and that medical COVID guidelines would be gazetted. Neither has happened. Nor have we received the meeting minutes. Is this Venezuela 2006 again? Are soldiers not obeying our civilian president?

On such cues, political parties that do not heed the law are going to town throwing the laws to the winds.

Jaffna GA N. Vedanayahan was transferred a few months short of elections and his retirement. He simply retired rather  than put up with the indignity. About 10 GAs were moved just before these elections without good reason, many believe for a collateral purpose. In a major district, complaints are ignored. When goods gifted for COVID-19 shelters were taken over by a former SLFP MP to be distributed as from him, there was an inquiry. The newly imposed Returning Officer certified a cooked up register of beneficiaries to the donors. He then certified to our Inquiry Team that “As far as [his] knowledge is concerned, he is firmly stating after confirmation that everything was done honestly by  his different levels of officers.”

After that, how can the inquiry Team say in its report that the GA handed over the responsibility to his officers who then played out the donors? Would anyone say this at an inquiry challenging his integrity? When he knows there are allegations against him and an inquiry is on, how can he make such a statement unless it is to cover up?  The Returning Officer was sent by powerful authorities to do a job. Who will fearlessly stand up against that?

As a senior Deputy Commissioner explained, “We have a car which we use to transport our children to school, etc. If we are suspended, our world is turned upside down without a car. So we comply with political orders. Our inquiries favor the authorities.”

Typical postal mail I get states: “Bladdy tamil dog. Get out my country. I am Sri lankan.” The game is to get us not to vote; to stop me from doing my job. 

We must never vote for those resorting to this rowdyism.

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Latest comments

  • 5
    10

    Prof. Ratnajeevan Hoole,
    .
    First of all we are facing a “General Election”. Not a “””We are facing a presidential election now under a new president””‘ as you claimed.
    .
    We need our capable military to keep people like you under control…..
    .
    # Commissioner who doesn’t know the deference between a presidential and a general election.
    # Commissioner who doesn’t know the deference between a foreigner and a Sri Lankan Citizen.
    .

  • 4
    2

    Thanks Prof. Hoole. I am an elderly person – move about with the help of a cane (a walking stick). During my recent visit to Jaffna, I have personally encountered rude postures of army men on mobikes, blocking my way. And, while passing by, I have seen military vehicles lurking in the dark street corners and also prowling around public places. I marvelled at the grand scale of militarization!
    BTW, a slip up: “We are facing a presidential election now……”? No, Parliamentary Election.

    • 1
      4

      Another lie coming out from ‘Tamil Lying Factory.’
      The anti Sri Lanka and anti-Sinhala propaganda campaign carried out all over the world by Tamil Diaspora was entirely based on lies to get the sympathy of the International Community. In one of my previous comments I mentioned a blatant lie told by a Tamil person at a seminar in The Netherlands.

  • 3
    6

    “Tamils fear the armed forces.”

    Malabar Vellala Demalu prefer blood from Sinhalayo in Armed Forces but not from Dalits if they have to undergo a blood transfusion.

    May be Vellala Tamils fear armed forces but not the low caste Demala people. They feel safer when Armed Forces are around. Ratnajeevan Hoole should watch the video on the farewell given to Col. Rathnapriya Bandu by ordinary Tamil people and former Dalit LTTE carders in Vishvamadu.
    Watch:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Glmcdl7anEE

  • 4
    2

    Shavendra Silva is playing politics. Shame!

    If SL had a courageous army, they would have defied political and illegal orders and pointed the gun at politicians (not people).

    Making the army independent from politicians should be the next Constitutional change SL needs.

    • 2
      5

      GATAM,
      Sri Lanka has a courageous army. They did not have to point the guns at politicians because they were not given political or illegal orders. Giving the order to eliminate Tamil terrorists who slaughtered Sinhalayo for three decades is not an illegal order.
      Sri Lankan Army is not only courageous but one of the most disciplined Army in the world. In Sri Lanka where discipline has gone to dogs, people will be happy if the Army play a role to restore discipline.

      “If SL had a courageous army, they would have defied political and illegal orders and pointed the gun at politicians (not people).”

  • 5
    0

    Dear Professor Hoole,
    .
    Sad that the end result of all the honest and transparent dedication that you display should be for those who are typical of the majority community on this island, to whom I belong, should be sending you racist hate mail. We ought to be doing something to counter this evil, and yet it is impossible for me to work out what to do.
    .
    Most of us Sinhalese no more desire to live under military rule than you do. To stave it off is all the more difficult now because this belief that there is some demi-God who will put all right was what a few persons in this country were wishing for even fifty years ago. Perhaps, we didn’t counter such foolish talk strongly enough at that time.
    .
    Last night, I put down in response to the then most recent article, the thoughts that then struck me:
    .
    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/mainstreaming-of-hate-thanks-to-racist-ghosts-a-recipe-for-disaster-for-sri-lanka/
    .
    That is what things look like here. A few of us struggling as hard as we can to stave off the seemingly imminent disaster.
    .
    On balance, the chances of our succeeding aren’t great. Our gratitude to you will always remain.

  • 4
    2

    The alien ghost [ yakka in every aspect and looks ] kallathoni of a so-called president with his family members along with their entourage of fellow criminal horra boru illegal greedy humbugs know very well that the much suffering NO in everything for their by the minute survival might give the SLPP the beating of their short life.
    =
    Those 6.9 million YAKKO modayas who brought this kallathoni of a Myakka to sit on the royal latrine are now in groans of dismay.
    Now they are indulging in 24 hours around the clock day/night groaning and wailing at the top of their voices cementing what a big mistake have we committed.
    Even our Lord Buddha and the Cardinal have gone dead on us they say.
    =
    Now the Rajapuka’s in their frustration of not being able to fool the Sinhala folks anymore will use their one-sided military to first cajole, bribe and if that’s not a possibility he will turn the armed forces into a bullying ganankarraya unit to win the anyway rigged election by duress [ by-force ].
    =
    The good folk down south of the nation are openly crying lamenting the fact that if only PREETHII the condom was available before the Rajapuka’s were ever conceived, we will be in the land of bliss and not in despair not knowing as to where the next meal is coming from or where’s the no-where to be seen cash comes from.?

    • 4
      0

      rj1952,
      .
      I disapprove of the language that you use. So, would Prof. Hoole.
      .
      With friends such as you, we will not need enemies.

      • 2
        1

        Listen I am getting sick and tired of your interference.
        You write to me on my personal email and I till now respond by giving you due respect.
        As far as I am concerned the rajapuka s and their fellow criminal petty racisr cohorts are nothing but scumbags.
        I stand by what I write
        Am I writing any fibs.?
        I am one who calls a spade as a spade.
        In my proven conclusion you are a petty closet rajapuka fan.

      • 2
        0

        The truth is Paramount holy and sacred.

      • 1
        0

        Sinhala Man,
        .
        What can we do, if Rj1952 would not decent language? There was one another from Mathugama; was no different to RJ..- by name Rodrigo – who too abused his wording on and on. I think he should have returned to srilanka now. He worked as an Engineer to an american firm in Baharaine. For some reasons, he is no longer on CT platform today. His was very unique to him. I only miss my good ” Amarasiri” and his well thought comments. I really miss him today.

        Rj1952 should also be well at his sinhala knowledge – I notice it from what he added all these weeks – may be he is one another who hates srilankens that much reminding 83 riots.

        What would you have been doing, if you were born in to a minority family in SL? I am shocked by hearing that almost 90% burgher families migrated to Australia by 70ties.

        Do they have any single representative in srilanken party poltics ?
        I truly know our sinhalayas and their racism are even beyond that of white american supremacists. Dont you think so ?

        What would you have been doing, if you were brutally attacked by SINHALA mobs to the manner they incited riots, in the aftermath of that easter sunday disaster , on innocient muslim families in Minuwangoda?…

        • 1
          0

          All of us can avoid using such language ourselves.
          Repeatedly denounce the use of filthy language until the CT hears the bell ringing.

        • 0
          0

          Dear LM,
          .
          Two good comments by you.
          .
          There is no way that the crude Rohan Johnpillai can be excused. People like him and Mallay have been doing immense harm to not only Sri Lankans generally, but also to the cause of the Tamils. We can be patient with idiots like these for a time, but I think that you must now stop being too nice to him.
          .
          As to what I’m doing, and plan to do, please see here:
          .
          https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/poisoned-paradise/
          .
          You have made an early comment, but I don’t think that you would have returned there to see the serious discussion there. See for yourself what an intelligent an mature Tamil like has told me.
          .
          What you have said above is true. There are almost no “perfect candidates”. See what we have said about the past of the father. I’m going to try to get as many votes as possible for the Telephone, and preferences for MG. I have contacted a very good man, Rajamanikkam, who is a Principal and a Trade Unionist. I will not hide anything from him – just as I’m frank with you.
          .
          There is a email

        • 0
          0

          Dear LM,
          .
          Two good comments by you.
          .
          There is no way that the crude Rohan Johnpillai can be excused. People like him and Mallay have been doing immense harm to not only Sri Lankans generally, but also to the cause of the Tamils. We can be patient with idiots like these for a time, but I think that you must now stop being too nice to him.
          .
          As to what I’m doing, and plan to do, please see here:
          .
          https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/poisoned-paradise/
          .
          You have made an early comment, but I don’t think that you would have returned there to see the serious discussion there. See for yourself what an intelligent and mature Tamil like Agnos has told me.
          .
          What you have said above is true. There are almost no “perfect candidates”. See what we have said about the past of the father. I’m going to try to get as many votes as possible for the Telephone, and preferences for MG. I have contacted a very good man, Rajamanikkam, who is a Principal and a Trade Unionist. I will not hide anything from him – just as I’m frank with you.

          • 0
            0

            PART TWO

            Those who were able to emigrate to “White Australia” were mostly “Dutch Burghers”. For the 300 years or so since their arrival, they’d been pretty racist, did not allow miscegenation (I’m sure that they must have been pretty cruel in enforcing that) and they kept meticulous records of marriages. They must have relaxed rules by now (i just don’t know), but there are enough persons recognised by them to maintain that building at “Thunmulla”, Bambalapitiya, fairly close to Colombo University’s College House.
            .
            Most Dutch Burghers also have now integrated with Sinhalese and Tamil families – as they should. So that’s how they have “disappeared”. Fewer people now proclaim themselves to be Dutch (“Good”) Burghers – the poor Portuguese are now getting accepted.
            .
            The Portuguese came to the subcontinent in search of “Spice and Christians”. They actually encouraged miscegenation. Therefore they did not qualify to migrate to “White Australia”.
            .
            Obviously, there are flaws in that thinking. They were relying on marriage certificates, but how the hell can I be certain that the man named in my marriage certificate was really my biological father? I’m sure that my mother was trusted on that! I’ve applied that to my own parentage so that nobody else takes offence, but it applies to us all. Telemachus makes the same joke about himself in Homer’s Odyssey, and that refers to 3,000 years ago.

        • 0
          0

          Dear leelagemalli,
          .
          You have asked “Do they (Burghers) have any single representative in Sri Lankan party politics ?”
          .
          Yes and No! Let me be honest, and also answer in such a way that you will understand.
          .
          The Burghers as a community have very nearly disappeared. Those who could pove that they were 80% white (check, I can’t vouch for accuracy) were allowed into “White Australia” after 1956. At that time “we” were not allowed in there as immigrants. That changed with the Whitlam government around 1970. After that even two of my sisters migrated there, and while they remain “Sinhalese” in many senses, their families are gradually integrating with the “Aussies” who are mostly white in colour, and have English as their language.
          .
          You have heard of “boat-people”, haven’t you? They now allow immigration without considering colour, but only of people who will contribute something to that society. They don’t want to be swamped by all the poor people from “Uva-Wellassa”. They also have a language policy. People going there must know Engish. Proof of that in terms of the results of certain test results. Apart from IELTS they will accept the relatively new Pearson test.

        • 0
          0

          PART THREE
          .
          LM,
          .
          Please pardon any mix up of parts. I hope you are able to follow. and looking at PART TWO, I have said “marriage certificate” when I meant “birth certificate”. I’m not being very careful writing this because to me it seems such simple common sense. I’ve usually been putting these things into a Word Document and making sure of the 200-word limit. Here, I’m “just typing”.
          .
          Today, who is a Burgher? I’ve never been called one. However, it is basically a person whose home language is English, uses cutlery when eating, the women dress in “Western Ways”, etc. Ah, and Christians. However, my Bandarawela GP, Dr Rienzie Auwardt, is complexion-wise a Burgher, but has become a devout “vegetarian-Buddhist”. All Sri Lankan men wear trousers, of course, and women’s dressers are changing.
          .
          Now I’m typing in something that I hope my family won’t see! My younger daughter has given me two dear little grand-daughters. Now my son-in-law was sometimes called Burgher – which my daughter furiously rejects. However, the fact is that his mother (now in her late sixties, I think) had always worn mostly “European-style clothes” and had usually had “short hair”. My son-in-law ALWAYS uses cutlery.

        • 0
          0

          PART FOUR
          .
          Come, come, dear LM.
          .
          Stop being so innocent. “Racism” is subtle, and common. It is not only the Sinhalese who suffer from it.
          .
          As for your specific question, about “Burgher politicians” there’s Johnston Fernando (now with the SLPP), and there may be others. In America a person with a minute amount of black genes (or appearance) is referred to as “a Black”. Have they ever had a Black President? What if I argue that they haven’t? Obama? Research! his mother was “White”! Look at the skin colour of some other Americans called “Black”.
          .
          My youngest sister (in North Carolina) is pretty dark, but then her only child, a daughter is fair. How come? My daughter’s mother-in-law is still living in Colombo. She is pure Austrian – you know, the country with Vienna as capital. I rarely talk about them (why should I?) They almost never come this way. When I do tell somebody, most “Uva-ites” hear what I say as “Australian”.
          .
          Others: General Colleen Powell, why, Megan Markle! Dammit, enough of this!
          .
          LM, please stop being so very fastidious!

  • 3
    0

    As far as our law is concerned there is no role for the military in performing police duties unless and otherwise the police so requests assistance of the military and the military is bound to provide it. By this time Prof. Hoole should know with all the litigations involved that the Constitution mandates that it is the duty of the President on the advice of the Election Commission, ensure the creation of proper conditions for the conduct of free and fair elections and referenda. [Art 33 (1) (d)]. So the EC can definitely tell the President what it wants and what it does not want with regard to the conduct of the elections and have it as well. I too have my reservations of the President on the excessive mobilization of military personnel in civilian affairs but to be fair the President has given due courtesy to the EC. I feel disgusted of Prof. Hoole’s cry-baby approach of in performing duties as a Commissioner where he has ample space to use his Doctoral knowledge (Mind you a DSc.) to modernize the electoral process instead of carrying archaic, heavy wooden boxes.

  • 2
    0

    “We and New Zealand can boast the longest experience in elections among the countries where elections are due soon.”
    ‘We must never vote for those resorting to this rowdyism.”
    When I put these talks together, I am tempted to note that since 1980 the UNP resorted to the same kind of rowdyism’ to keep itself in power.
    To be fair by New Zealand, which despite its being an appendage of imperialism has held clean elections, long ‘experience’ is what this country has in common with it.
    Let us face the reality that once politicians used rowdies to fetch votes for them. Soon the rowdies realized that it was profitable to fetch votes for themselves. That is the tragedy of our parliament. People tend to protest against one kind of rowdyism not some other kinds.
    GR is able to get away with offering a central role to the army because the people have little faith in their political leaders and MPs.
    *
    The threat of military rule or a military backed rule has been on the cards for decades. GR simply has accelerated the process.
    I doubt if anyone can guess whose heads will roll when the military has the whip-hand.
    Personal loyalties are flimsy in a cruel world of political power.

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