Police warned yesterday there was an organized attempt to rig Tuesday’s Presidential poll as prelates of four leading Buddhist sects appealed jointly to stop misuse of state property and “character assassinations.”
“I have received confirmed reports that there is an organized attempt to collect National Identity Cards (NICs) from voters to rig the polls,” Police Chief Mahinda Balasuriya told a news conference at Police Headquarters yesterday. He said “I request people not to hand over their NICs to anyone including those who claim to be from the Police.”
Mr. Balasuriya’s remarks came after Police received reports that armed gangs were collecting NICs from residents in a number of areas.
Police said a gang had stormed Fordyce Estate in Nawalapitiya on Friday night and forcibly seized a large number of NICs from workers there. Armed groups had also stormed estate homes in Badulla to seize NICs. He said the public should call 119 and report if there are attempts to seize their NICs.
The prelates of the four Buddhist chapters – Malwatte (Ven. Tibbotuwawe Sri Siddharatha Sumangala Thera), Asgiriya (Ven. Udugama Sri Ratnapala Buddharakitha Thera), Ramanna Nikaya (Venerable Weweldeniya Medalankara Thera) and Amarapura (Ven. Dauldena Gananissara Thera) – in a joint statement yesterday called for a free and fair poll.
Their statement said election violence, misuse of Government property, assaults on private persons, baseless allegations against persons, character assassinations and highly dangerous criminal offences should be immediately stopped.
The prelates said that the Commissioner of Elections and his staff should act with restraint and impartiality in the face of this situation.
Hours after their statement, Police Special Task Force (STF) commandos raided Sri Bodhirajaramaya at Maligawatte. Military Spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara announced that a weapons cache was discovered there. It included 56 grenades, two T-56 assault rifles, six magazines, 119 rounds of 7.62 ammunition, two smoke bombs, seven micro bullets and 47 rounds of live 9 mm ammunition.
The chief incumbent of the temple, Ven. Uvathanne Sumana Thera, who was taken into custody thereafter, recently declared his support to opposition’s common candidate, retired General Sarath Fonseka. He is also the President of the National Patriotic Movement and General Secretary of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party Bhikku Front.
Joint spokesperson for Gen. Fonseka’s campaign, Mangala Samaraweera, described the raid as “a well-planned conspiracy by the Government to stave off defeat. Even members of the Buddhist clergy are not spared.”
The Kurunegala Police yesterday seized a lorry carrying scurrilous posters against Gen Fonseka following a tip-off. The lorry also had bottles of arrack.
The lorry driven by two navy personnel was stopped at Malkaduwawa, off the Kurunegala town. A group of supporters of Gen Fonseka had followed the vehicle after informing the police who stopped vehicle and took it to the Police.
Polling will begin Tuesday at 7 a.m. and end at 4 p.m. Elections Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake said that if there was no recount, the results could be announced on Wednesday morning.
Inspector General Balasuriya said of 85,000 policemen, 68,800 would be detailed for election duty. He discounted the possibility of a curfew and declared the 1523 policemen had been deployed for mobile patrols in the main cities.