|Digamadulla 8-body polls rolled forth without violence
by Himangi Jayasundere
Postponed elections to eight local bodies in the Digamadulla district was held yesterday with a twenty per cent voter turnout being recorded by mid afternoon.
Election monitors said that there were no reported incidents of violence.
Assistant Elections Commissioner, Ampara, the police and independent election observers said that the election during the first half of the day was peaceful. However voter turn out was just 20% by mid afternoon, Assistant Elections Commissioner, Ampara, Bandula Harischandra said, observing that "Voter turnout is less than at the parliamentary elections".
Executive Director for Peoples' Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL) Kingsly Rodrigo said that according to reports from monitors, the election was going smoothly with no significant incidents of intimidation or harassment. "Its like one horse race, he said indicating a UNF victory. But he added that there was some rivalry among UNF candidates who were canvassing for preferential votes. PA polling agents were not present in many of the polling booths, while some campaigning was being done by supporters of the UNF, he said.
The Police Elections Branch in Ampara said no incidents of elections related violence had been reported by mid last afternoon.
Seven Pradeshiya Sabhas and one Municipal Council in the Digamadulla district went to polls yesterday. These were Ampara Municipal Council and the Pradeshiya Sabhas of Namal Oya, Damana, Maha Oya, Padiyatalawa, Dehiattakandiya, Uhana and Lahugala. These eight local bodies which are situated in the Sinhala majority areas of the district were among the eighteen local bodies for which elections were postponed.
From a total of 362,000 registered voters in the district 142,466 were to cast their vote at yesterdays election at 136 out of a total of 315 polling booths in the district.
Assistant Elections Commissioner, Harischandra said counting of postal votes would begin around 4.00 p.m. last evening and counting of other votes would begin around 6.00 p.m. He said results of postal votes would be released around 8.00 p.m. and those of other votes around 9.00 p.m.
Local bodies to which elections are yet to be held in the Digamadulla district are the Kalmunai municipal council and the pradeshiya sabhas of Adalachchenai, Samanthurai, Akkaraipattu, Pottuvil, Nindavur and Thirukkovil.
Meanwhile PAFFREL in a statement criticised the presumed ethnic criteria on which elections were being held in the north and east. It said the areas of the Ampara district in which elections were held yesterday appeared to be areas predominated by the Sinhala while those in which elections were not held yesterday appeared to be areas predominated by Muslims. The statement said political parties representing the Muslim people have called for elections to be held in the Muslim majority areas of the north-east and that most political parties representing the Tamil people have called for the election to be postponed on account of the ongoing peace process.
"In a situation in which the interests of several ethnic groups are involved the government is not entitled to use criteria that result in the denial of the fundamental rights of one ethnic group. The right of people to vote and freely elect their representatives is a fundamental human right that transcends ethnic considerations. PAFFREL is firmly of the view that the decision to hold or not to hold elections must not be based on ethnic criteria and should take into account the wishes and expectations of the voters who are involved". It also called upon the Elections Commissioner to be consistent in either conducting or cancelling elections in the North East province and to make public the criteria he is applying in each case.
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