A low turnout was observed at yesterday’s provincial elections in the Kandy and Matale districts until noon, indicating voter apathy when compared with the recent polls in the North Central and Sabaragamauwa Provinces.
Half way into the day, polls officials were placing the turnout at between 35 and 40 percent both in the Matale and Kandy districts.
Kandy Government Agent Gothabaya Jayaratne said nearly four hours after voting began, field reports suggested a voter turnout of only about 25 percent in the district, but he was optimistic that the trend would increase later in the day.
|Ex-minister Alick Aluvihare
Matale GA Gamini Seneviratne echoed a similar situation, while both of them also reported there were few or no incidents of major irregularities from the two districts.
Polling was conducted in a relatively peaceful and fair manner and the security forces did an excellent job to keep it that way, they said.
Meanwhile, Keerthi Tennakoon of the independent Elections Monitoring group CaFFE said wide-scale indifference by the voters came as no surprise since this election was seen by most people as premature and unnecessary. “This was an election thrust on the people who face bigger problems like the rising cost of living than trekking to a polling booth,” Mr. Tennakoon said.
He said the voter turnout at yesterday’s polls in the Central Province was extremely poor when compared with the enthusiasm shown by the people at last year’s elections in the North Central and Sabaragamuwa provinces.
As in the previous provincial polls, this time too a large number of people were not allowed to cast their ballots owing to the lack of proper identification papers, Mr. Tennakoon said.
He said the bulk of those affected by the rule were from the estate sector stretching from the Nuwara Eliya District to several pockets in Matale.
Most of these people were turned away from booths in Rathtota, Laggalla, Agrapathana, Dickoya and Kotmale in the Matale district and Ragala, Rossella and Norwood in the Nuwara Eliya District, he said.
Mr. Tennakoon said it was too early to give an exact count of the number of persons who were denied their voting rights owing to this ID regulation but he believed the figure could be several thousands.
Mr. Tennakoon’s view was endorsed by Nimal Karunaratne who was denied his vote in Matale since he did not have his NIC despite being in possession of a temporary permit issued by the Department for the Registration of Persons.
A disillusioned Mr. Karunaratne who had served in the operational areas of the north and east for some 15 years told The Sunday Times that he was hurt by the attitude of the polling officials and that he was planning to take legal action.