|All eyes on first major post liberation Eastern poll|
|Saturday, 10 May 2008|
COLOMBO: Voters in the East go to the polls today to elect 37 members to the first Provincial Council election to the delinked Eastern Province in the aftermath of the liberation of the east from the LTTE. Authorities said all arrangements are in place for a free and fair election with a 20,000 strong contingent of security personnel and 15,000 polls officers to man the election.
Voting will take place in 1,070 polling centres spanning three districts, Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Ampara with the number of eligible voters totalling 982,721. A record number of 1,342 candidates are in the fray from 18 political parties and 73 independent groups. Election authorities said voters would be allowed to cast their ballot from 7.00 am to 4.00 pm at registered polling centres. Voters who have not received or have misplaced their polling cards could obtain the ballot paper by producing a valid identification document, approved by Authorities.
Authorities have made the ID compulsory to obtain the ballot paper at this election and have issued a list of identity documents from which the production of one would suffice to qualify for voting. These are the National ID, Passport, Driving Licence, Postal ID, Railway Ticket ID, Pensioners ID, an ID with a Photo legally issued by a Government Authority, Bhikku ID, ID issued for local polls 2006 and 2008 or a temporary ID issued by Grama Niladari countersigned by DS. According to these authorities stringent measures are to be taken in the case of serious violations of election laws and steps taken to annul the poll in polling stations where serious violations occur that could have a significant impact on the result.
A senior official of the Elections Department said the decision regarding such action would be taken by the Commissioner of Elections after a careful study. According to Police, a comprehensive security dragnet had been thrown over the entire province with more than 20,000 officers placed on duty. Five officers are to be attached to every polling station in the Province, in addition to conducting mobile patrols and erecting special road blocks.
Strict orders have also been given to all officers to protect law and order and if necessary use force to prevent any misdeeds Authorities said. The main election watch dog in the country, PAFFREL is set to deploy over 2,500 observers on election day which would include a team of international monitors. In addition, PAFFREL has opened three co-ordinating offices in the districts with two observers deployed to man each polling station. PAFFREL said they had received 85 complaints so far regarding election malpractices but admitted that most were trivial in nature.
The CMEV and CAFFE are also to join PAFFREL in the election monitoring process on the D-Day, enhancing the manpower of election observers. PAFFREL would include two members each for every polling station, in addition to deploying mobile patrols, and they have also set up four offices in the three districts to man the poll, sources said. DIG Rienzie Perera said a 10,000 strong security contingent would be used for polling duties in the Ampara district which houses the largest number of voters 409,308. In Ampara, 6,578 officers would be used to man polling duties said Assistant Commissioner L.D. Tennekoon, with 430 polling centres been set up in the entire district. Eleven political parties and 22 independent groups have joined the race with 403 candidates in the fray to grab 14 slots at stake in the Ampara district. According to Tennekoon, all presiding officers had reported for duty and the ballot boxes had been taken to respective polling stations and also 30 counting centres had been set up.
The first election result expected to be released before midnight. According to DIG H. M. D. Herath all measures are afoot to provide adequate security for elections with over 6500 security personnel being deployed on election day in Batticaloa. Election Authorities have planned to deploy over 5400 officers on polling day in the Batticaloa district which accounts for 330,950 voters where 11 seats are on offer for the Eastern PC. According to Asst. Elections Commissioner for Batticaloa T. Krishnandalingam all measures are in place for the conduct of the elections with 362 polling centres in addition to 32 separate stations been set up to cater to displaced voters numbering 2311.
Also there are 29 counting centres in the district with the first election result (postal votes) expected to be released before midnight. According to Asst. Elections Commissioner for Trincomalee Bandara Mapa over 3000 officers would be used for polling duties with 278 centres being set up to cater to 242,463 voters in the district. Six separate polling centres have been set up in Trincomlee for IDP voters which would elect 10 members for the Eastern PC out of 561 contestants who are in the fray.
According to DIG Upali Gunasekera who mans election security in the district only 15 related incidents of violence has been reported so far with all of them being minor in nature. The election to appoint 37 members for the Eastern PC would be conducted in the three districts on May 10 at 1070 polling centres, with a total of 1342 candidates in the fray from 18 political parties and 73 independent groups. The first and the last election for the merged North-East was held in 1988 and the administration led by chief Minister Vartharaja Perumal was dissolved in 1990. Since then many significant changes have taken place in the Eastern theatre. Some parts which was under LTTE control has been liberated and the Government has launched a development revolution to bring back East to its former glory. As a result of a successful plea brought before the Supreme Court in 2006, the North and East which were amalgamated into a single Province since 1988 were separated once again into two Provinces. Following this the need for holding an election for the Eastern Provincial Council emerged.
Thus, the Provincial Council Election in the East is viewed by many as one which has both political and historical significance and also one which could change the path of history in this country.
(Courtesy : Daily News )
|Last Updated ( Tuesday, 24 June 2008 )|
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