Thursday, January 14, 2010

Sri Lanka: Designed use of terror during election campaign

The presidential election will take place on the 26th of January. The campaign leading to the election took a bloody turn yesterday (13th of January 2010) with the killing of Kusumawahi Kurupuarachi at Hungama in Tangalle in Hambanthota district, and another very violent conflict being led by some senior politicians of the government at Polonaruwa town centre. The two locations were far apart: one in the deep south, and the other in the north central provinces, suggesting a deliberately designed pogrom being carried out in different parts of the country.

Sri Lanka has been witnessing periods of intense terror continuously since 1971. Particularly since 1978, all elections, particularly the election for the executive president, have been accompanied with massive-scale violence. In the election campaign on 1988, there was an intensely violent campaign which resulted in the deaths and disappearances of thousands of persons. The subsequent investigations showed that the highest numbers of acts of violence, including the disappearances, took place closer to the date of the election.

The designed use of terror during an election campaign is to achieve the purpose of intimidating the opponent in order to prevent opposition supporters from going to the polls. It also facilitates the large-scale rigging of elections. The present escalation of tension has all the marks of the previous experiences of interference with free and fair elections by generating terror.

Under these circumstances, the statement made by the election commissioner also indicates the atmosphere of interferences into the elections to an extent that the conduct of the election as required by law seems to be becoming impossible. The Daily Mirror reported as follows:

Elections Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake threatened, yesterday, to withdraw from his duties related to the Presidential Election asserting that the authorities concerned had not aided him by adhering to the guidelines and regulations issued by him to create an atmosphere conducive to a free and fair election.

Mr. Dissanayake, at a meeting with the representatives of political parties, expressed his disgust and disappointment over the failure of the government to cooperate with him in this respect.

However, he withdrew his threat after the political parties assured him that they would abide by the election laws in the run up to theelection. Mr. Dissanayake had reportedly told the meeting that the Competent Authority appointed by him had been humiliated by the state media.

The Asian Human Rights Commission wishes to alert all the citizens of Sri Lanka and the international community to the danger of another period of terror emerging in Sri Lanka in the coming days. It is the duty of all democratically minded persons to make their interventions in order to prevent the possibility of such a situation and to ensure a peaceful atmosphere within which the citizens of Sri Lanka can exercise their franchise. The safety and security of the lives of all persons should be the prime consideration at all time. All measures must be taken to prevent the re-emergence of the type of violence that Sri Lankans has encountered continuously in recent decades

Source: Asian Human Rights Commission

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