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Election Secretariat rules out computer fraud at Jan. 26 polls
Counting done manually in the presence of party agents - Top official

The Election Secretariat yesterday dismissed Opposition allegations that the government and the election staff had manipulated the results of Tuesday’s presidential polls to help incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa secure a second term with a thumping majority of 1.8 million votes.

Retired top civil servant Bandula Kulatunga, now consultant to the Elections Secretariat, told The Island that counting of ballot papers was done manually though computers, too, were used in the process. According to him, the use of computers is in addition to manual counting.

He said it would not have been possible to manipulate the results and that the election staff had also allowed recounts.

Referring to the Polls Chief’s press conference Friday prior to the presidential polls, Kulatunga said every possible measure had been adopted to ensure a free and fair election. Dissanayake urged political parties not to make foolish excuses after losing elections.

Kulatunga emphasised that results of each counting centre had been made available to the counting agents of the three top candidates, who obtained the highest number of votes at a particular centre. Invariably, the representatives of the two major candidates had received certified copies of results at each counting centre, he said. He said the major parties were fully aware of the situation and their representatives had been present at all counting facilities to ensure transparency.

JVP leader Somawansa Amarasinghe and Mangala Samaraweera, MP (SLFP-Mahajana Party) on Thursday called separate press conferences to reject the final result. Opposition presidential candidate General (retd) Sarath Fonseka, too, said that the result did not reflect the actual mood of the electorate. The Opposition alleged that Rajapaksa had scored a massive victory through a computer fraud. Amarasinghe called it ‘computer jilmart’.

Responding to Opposition’s claims, UPFA General Secretary Susil Premjyantha said that Polls Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake had responded to all their concerns in the run-up to the January 26 polls.

Addressing the media at the BMICH on Thursday, Minister Premjayantha said that the issue had been raised thrice ahead of the election at meetings chaired by Dissanayake. He said that UNP General Secretary Tissa Attanayake, MP, and Sharmila Perera, General Secretary of the Democratic National Front (DNF) had represented the Opposition presidential candidate General (retd) Sarath Fonseka at these meetings. According to him, there had been some lawyers, who looked after the interests of the Opposition candidate.

Kulatunga confirmed that they could even identify any particular voter with help of the counterfoil though it would never be done without a directive from the judiciary.

Minister Premjayantha said the last minute revelation that the Opposition candidate could not even exercise his franchise due to him not being on the electoral registrar highlighted the true character of the Opposition. He faulted former Chief Justice Sarath Nanda Silva and UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe for coming on Sirasa to reassure voters of Fonseka’s eligibility.

Public Administration and Home Affairs Minister Dr. Sarath Amunugama said local and foreign monitors had declared that it was a free and fair poll. He said that Opposition leaders, too, had earlier admitted defeat though they now played a different tune. He paid a glowing tribute to public servants for the exemplary manner in which they had conducted the countrywide poll. Referring to the Opposition pledge of a Rs. 10,000 salary increase, Dr. Amunugama said the vast majority of public servants had reposed their faith in President Rajapaksa without being duped by Fonseka’s promises.

He said that the President had polled upto 70 per cent of the postal vote in some districts. That was a tremendous achievement, he said.

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