Sri Lanka election violence widespread, state resources abused: polls monitor
COLOMBO (EconomyNext) – The run up to Sri Lanka’s 2015 presidential poll has been marred by 420 violent incidents and gross mis-use of state assets for campaigning, an election monitoring group said.
The Centre for Monitoring Election Violence said there were 183 major incidents including shootings where several people were hospitalized and at least one person was fighting for his life in intensive care.
Pakiasothy Saravanamuttu, co-convenor of CMEV said there was gross abuse of state resources for elections.
Though abuse of state resources was a recurring problem in Sri Lanka’s elections "the degree and intensity" of the mis-use of resources" during this election was unprecedented he said.
CMEV had recorded 132 incidents of gross mis-use of state resources. There was also excessive use of state media for propaganda.
An administration run by Sri Lanka’s main opposition United National Party built two state television stations, one which was acquired from a private citizen. The have been mis-used for propaganda by successive administrations.
D M Dissananake, chief co-ordinator of CMEV said the worst violence and violations of election laws were done by local politicians of the ruling party.
Even in the past ruling parties engaged in most of the violence, the monitors said.
Dissananake said in many areas police were partial to the ruling party and when shots were fired into a meeting of the opposition candidate they just ran away.
There were also fears that a heightened presence of security forces in the north and east may intimidate voters into staying at home, he said.
Saravanamuttu called on both main candidates not to engage election violence after the polls.
In Sri Lanka there is a practice of unleashing violence on opponents, following a change-over which went to new heights in the late 70s under an administration of the UNP. Post-election violence eased a little under President Chandrika Kumaratunga.
Election violence is absent in true liberal democracies but was endemic in European fascist nationalist states.
Critics say in the absence of liberal philosophy where human life is valued regardless of caste, creed or religion, fascist nationalism is a natural outcome of universal suffrage when feudal rule ends.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa in his final rally called on his supporters not to harm opponents after victory in the polls.
Earlier in the week, Mangala Samaraweera, a senior UNP official who is backing the common opposition candidate Maithripala Sirisena also called on supporters not to harm their opponents after victory.