Monday, May 12, 2008

Overall 55%-60% voter turnout in violence-free Eastern PC poll

With an overall 55% to 60% voter turnout, the curtain came down on the Eastern Provincial Council election yesterday sans any major poll-related acts of violence.

The turnout for the poll in the three districts of the Province, Ampara, Trincomalee and Batticaloa - held after a lapse of 20 years, was satisfactory, Elections Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake said

Though there was a lull as polling opened at 7 am, it gathered momentum as the day progressed, election officials said.

"There were no major election-related incidents of violence", senior police and security officials said.

Ampara's Chief Returning Officer, Sunil Kannangara said polling was in the range of 60% to 65% in the Digamadulla district.

Trincomalee's Chief Returning Officer, Major General (Retd) Ranjith de Silva placed the voter turnover 55% to 60% in the district under his purview.

Chief Returning Officer of Batticaloa, Government Agent Sundaram Arumainayagam reported 55% polling in his district.

There were no major incidents during polling and voters were observed casting their votes in a relatively peaceful atmosphere, said W. P. Sumanasiri, the Additional Commissioner of Elections (Provincial and Local).

However, the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) and People's Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL) reported certain poll-related incidents in the three districts.

CMEV said in a statement that 25 complaints of incidents of election related violence were received and of them 18 fell into the 'major offences' category.

PAFFREL's Executive director Kingsley Rodrigo said 56 incidents were reported and of them 28 were made by the UNP. Most of them related to chasing away voters, impersonation and clashes between political party supporters.

He said that overall 80% had gone off smoothly but 20% had been marred by untoward incidents.

The leader of the TMVP, who is also the Chief Ministerial candidate of the UPFA Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan better known as Pillaiyan cast his vote at the polling station at Vipulananda Maha Vidyalaya in Valachchenai. Similarly, the other UPFA hopeful M. L .A. M. Hisbullah voted in his hometown of Kattankudy under heavy military cover.

The Chairman of the SLMC and chief candidate of the UNP from the Batticaloa district Basheer Cegudawood cast his vote at the Arafat Vidayalaya booth, adjoining his residence at Eravur.

UNP General Secretary Tissa Attanayake, coordinating his party's campaign yesterday charged that the polls were not free and fair and cited certain incidents at Tirukkovil in Ampara, Verugal in Trincomalee. He accused the TMVP leader of rigging votes in Batticaloa but said he is hopeful of victory for the UNP.

Media Minister Anura Priyadharshana Yapa who was associated with Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva in leading the UPFA's campaign in the Digamadulla District also expressed confidence of victory for his party.

UPFA General Secretary and Minister Susil Premajayantha leading the campaign from the Batticaloa district said that the situation was quite calm without any major incidents and the voter turnout was improving by noon, "The UPFA is assured of an overwhelming victory "

Senior Advisor to the President (MP) Basil Rajapaksa leading the UPFA's campaign in the Eastern Province expressed confidence that the Government would get a resounding victory to move forward with developing the province.

DIG (Digamadulla) Shantha Rajapaksa said no violent poll-related incidents were reported.

DIG (Batticaloa) H. M. D Herath said that the situation was under control without any incidents worth mentioning.

DIG (Trincomalee) Upali Gunasekera said that expect for a few isolated incidents, voting took place in a peaceful atmosphere.

The last elections to the formerly merged North-East Province was held on November 19, 1988

This poll was held according to the Electoral Register for 2006 under which there are 982,721 registered voters who were eligible to cast their vote for 1,342 candidates belonging to 18 political parties and 56 independent groups to elect 35 members. Two bonus seats will go to the party or group that receives the highest number of preference votes.

Courtesy: The Island

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