polls: Peaceful but voter turnout low
An average voter turnout of around 55 per cent
was reported in the elections held to elect representatives to 20
local councils held yesterday with voting being largely peaceful,
elections officials said.
There was little enthusiasm among voters including those in the
Colombo city where only an estimated 55 per cent of the 4,16,276
registered voters turned out to cast their votes, though the 2002
voter turnout was over 59 per cent.
In Gampaha and Galle MCs a 60% voter turnput was reported.
|Inset: Policemen on election duty near the Serpentine Flats
in Colombo ask occupants of a van displaying the poster of a
local government candidate to remove it. No posters of candidates
are allowed near polling centres on election day.
The rejection of the UNP’s nomination list
and the ensuing legal dispute seems to have been a main contributory
factor for the lack on enthusiasm among the voters in Colombo city
which has been controlled by the UNP for nearly 28 years.
Many of the UNP supporters who came to vote seemed confused as to
which symbol they should vote for even though party members have
been asking them to vote for the ‘spectacles’ symbol
of the independent party whose members have agreed to step down
on behalf of the UNP candidates after the polls.
More than 55 incidents of elections-related violence or violation
of election laws were reported yesterday by local election monitors
during the local polls conducted to 20 councils.
Eleven incidents each were reported from the Colombo and Kalmunai
An incident of a bomb explosion, a grenade attack on a candidate’s
residence, two shootings, intimidation of voters and chasing away
of polling agents were among the main incidents reported.
The bomb explosion took place at the Egoda Kalugamuwa polling booth
in Kandy and the grenade was lobbed at an SLMC candidate’s
house, both causing no casualties.
The Gampola Urban Council and Potuvil Pradesheeya Sabha polls witnessed
six incidents each with Udapalatha and Nintavur Pradesheeya Sabhas
recording four incidents each and Kobeigane and Elpitiya Pradesheeya
Sabhas two incidents each, according to election monitors.The Centre
for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV), People’s Action for
Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL) were the main monitoring groups.
Two shootings were reported from Digamadulla District, allegedly
by SLMC and UPFA candidates. An UPFA candidate along with his supporters
had allegedly tried to forcibly enter a polling station to intimidate
voters. While leaving, the candidate’s security escorts had
allegedly shot in the air four times.
|Election staff at the Allan Mathiniya Aramaya
in Narahenpita had to carry out their duties under kerosene
lamps last morning due to a power failure in the area.
Officials in one polling booth had reportedly
allowed voters to cast their ballots without marking their fingers
as the ink was said to be outdated.
Meanwhile, a group of JVPers were allegedly assaulted by UPFA supporters
at Kobeigane in Kurunegala last morning, according to JVP group
leader Dr. P.M. Wickramaratne.
However Dr. Wickramaratne was arrested on allegations of an assault
on an UPFA candidate. He was produced before the Kuliyapitiya Magistrate
and released on bail of Rs. 10,000 cash and surety bail of Rs. 50,000.
In another incident, a police sergeant, a woman constable and a
constable from the Kandy district were interdicted for non-compliance
of their duties during the elections yesterday.
They were posted for duty at the Sarasvathi Vidyalaya polling centre
at Waugahalpitiya in Udaplatha Pradeshiya Sabha area.
Assistant Commissioner of Elections W.M.P.G. Wickremasinghe confirmed
that a report had been filed with Returning Officer Gotabaya Jayaratne
and that the Elections Commissioner had been informed of the incident
where an unruly mob had allegedly forcibly inserted ballot papers
and taken away an Elections department seal.
The police personnel had shot in the air without stopping the rigging,