More checks and security at counting centres

By Leon Berenger

The movement of Polling Agents inside the counting centres for parliamentary elections is to be restricted. Elections Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake has sent out instructions to the effect to district secretaries who will function as Returning officers.

The issues were discussed during a meeting between the Commissioner of Elections and regional election officials recently. Matale Government Agent Gamini Seneviratne said the polling agents would be allowed to leave the centre only during stipulated interval periods.

At the recent Presidential election the opposition alleged mass-scale rigging and violence at the Matale counting centres. This they claimed had altered the outcome of the final results in favour of the government side.

Ratnapura’s Government Agent H. W. Gunadasa said they had also called for a bigger police presence including armed sentries at the main entrance to the counting hall.

“This election is different to the earlier one since there are a larger number of parties and candidates in the fray and therefore a larger police presence is essential to keep the process in check. The large number of polling agents is definitely a problem and we need to be alert during the entire counting process,” Mr. Gunadasa added.

Meanwhile, independent polls observers have sought access to the counting centres, a facility that was not provided to them earlier.

People’s Action For Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL) Director Rohana Hettiarachchi said they had appealed to Elections Commissioner Dayanada Dissanayake and he promised to take a decision after consulting party leaders in the next few days.

Campaign For Free and Fair Elections (CaFFE) Coordinator Keerthi Tennakoon said that giving independent observers access to the counting centres could ensure that the counting was fair.

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