Sri Lanka’s poll monitors receive over 200 complaints

Colombo, Feb 18: Sri Lanka’s elections are heating up with poll monitors receiving over 200 complaints about election law violations, officials said Tuesday.

Elections for the country’ Western and Southern Provincial Councils will be held March 29, with 3,794 candidates vying to fill 159 positions in the two provincial council bodies.

Election monitors have already warned that the battle would be chaotic and possibly violent with many candidates of the ruling party, the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA), and main opposition United National Party fighting it out for votes, Xinhua reported.

Local election watchdogs Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CaFFE) and People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL) have said that they have received a large number of complaints on election law violations and election-related violence.

The two election monitors said that they have received over 200 complaints but the police election unit has said that it received only 12 complaints related to the elections.

CaFFE has issued statements saying it has received 176 complaints in total, including four connected to election-related violence and 156 on election law violations such as the use of public property, involvement of government servants in election campaigns, job promotions and transfers, propaganda, damage to property, assaults and threats.

Executive Director of PAFFREL Rohana Hettiarachchi said the organisation has received 43 complaints, 21 from the Western Province and the rest from the Southern Province.

According to PAFFREL, apart from informing the Elections Commissioner and the media about the violations, it will take legal action against candidates who are found to have violated election laws.

Sri Lanka’s state-run Election Secretariat has so far received 57 complaints about election law violations. A majority of them alleges illegal transfer of government officials.

Last week, shots were fired at the vehicle of UNP Southern Provincial Council candidate Anura Senaratne, poll monitors said in what is the first fire arms-related violation reported to date.

Another candidate from the ruling party was arrested by police for carrying out an illegal election campaign and assaulting a police officer in the southern city of Galle.

Two people have also died after a truck carrying UPFA party supporters crashed into a group of bystanders at a political rally.

During the last round of provincial elections in September 2013, there were a large number of election violation complaints, deaths and several shooting incidents on the day of voting.