As Election Day
nears the campaign has intensified. Tensions have risen. Showing
off has become a contest. Violence, which for the most part was
minimal or subdued has taken a turn for the worse.
A UPFA supporter was killed and over three score injured when
Opposition goons opened fire at a convoy of vehicles carrying
supporters to a UPFA election rally at Anamaduwa last Saturday.
Several of the injured are also in a critical condition.
Earlier last week several thousand strong mob attacked the
UPFA office in Polonnaruwa in which SLFP General Secretary
Minister Maitripala Sirisena narrowly escaped. Whether these are
signs of desperation or planned attempts to intimidate and
silence political opponents is still a moot question.
What is urgent at present is to halt this escalation of
violence. Sri Lankans have nearly seven decades of experience in
exercising universal suffrage. That is an experience that would
be the envy of even the developed countries in the West. They
have conducted elections peacefully barring certain isolated
ones during the period of terror. The whole series of Provincial
elections last year were very calm and quiet.
The law enforcement officers should ensure that such
incidents are not repeated. Prompt investigations and bringing
the culprits before courts expeditiously would help much to
contain such violence.
There is another factor that has to be taken into account.
Interested parties have formed various NGOs ostensibly to
monitor elections. However, their monitoring is so partial that
one monitoring body has openly accused some others of
highlighting minor incidents. Such inflated reports when
published in the media send a wrong and distorted message about
the reality. Perhaps there may be a material gain for these
monitoring bodies when the number of incidents reported
increases as they are fed by foreign grants.
The media too share the blame for exaggerated stories of
violence. Even family feuds and other private quarrels are being
reported as election related violence. For example, take the
shooting incident at Tangalle. There the deceased woman was a
supporter of the SLFP and President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Apparently she was on her way to a function organised by
Parliamentarian Sajith Premadasa on his birthday.
As free spectacles were distributed the deceased lady was in
a bus that carried people to that function. It was not an
election rally. Yet several newspapers flashed the story with
banner headlines to say that a woman on her way to a rally in
support of Sarath Fonseka was killed. Even before Police
investigations started the media and the monitoring bodies had
given the verdict. It later transpired that the murder was the
result of a family dispute. The suspect has been already taken
into custody together with the weapon that was used to commit
The same newspapers, however, refrained from mentioning any
political involvement in reporting the death of the UPFA
supporter on his way to the political rally in Anamaduwa. The
need to obey election rules and regulations should be
emphasized. Most violence is a result of the breach of the law.
For example, it is an offence to put up posters, banners,
cut-outs in public places during the election period. Yet this
is observed mostly in the breach. Political parties share a big
responsibility for this violation. Many reported incidents have
occurred when parties had removed the cut-outs and banners of
The Police will have to ensure a violence free poll on
January 26 for violence would not only disrupt the election but
would also tarnish the image of the country and give room for
external interference in the country as it happened in the case
of the recent election in Iran.
Further, international observers will be monitoring the
election. They would report to the world any irregularities. It
would harm the country and in such a case even a just earned
victory could be labelled as unjust by external forces that are
waiting for an opportunity to blame Sri Lanka.
That is why it is very important to ensure that the poll
would be free and fair.