SLDF Denounces Massive Election Fraud in North and
As the polls closed in Sri Lanka’s April 2 election, one thing was clear.
Tamil voters of the North and East had once again been denied their
franchise. But this time the obstacle was not war, nor was it
state-sponsored discrimination. It was fraud, intimidation and murder
perpetrated ironically -- by the LTTE and its proxy, the TNA. While
incidents and fraud did occur in some other parts of Sri Lanka, the
incidence of vote rigging in Jaffna, Batticaloa, Vanni and Trincomalee,
was exceptionally high, and blatantly executed.
Voting in the North and East had been preceded by deliberate targeting of
opponents by the LTTE over the course of many months, during which
hundreds of people including candidates, potential candidates and their
supporters -- were killed, “disappeared,” injured and otherwise threatened
to silence their dissent. But the LTTE failed to complete its mission. A
few courageous people, knowing fully well they endangered their lives in
doing so, remained willing to stand up to the LTTE to contest this
During this election, the LTTE refused to risk the possibility that Tamil
voters might reject the LTTE’s violent hold on their community and its
totalitarian claim as the Tamils’ sole representative. To achieve this
end Tiger cadres and members of the TNA stuffed ballot boxes, distributed
stolen and counterfeit polling cards, deployed impersonators (including
teenagers), threatened and photographed polling agents from other parties.
Jaffna residents report that as late as the evening of April 1, LTTE
cadres were going house to house and demanding that individuals relinquish
polling cards. On Election Day supporters of dissident parties complained
that on their way to the polls, their polling cards had been stolen from
Witnesses in Jaffna reported men distributing stacks of polling cards, and
others attempting to wash off the ink used to mark the fingers of people
who have already voted. They also reported that LTTE members and TNA
supporters, were ferrying chosen voters to the polling booths via vehicles
with erroneous number plates.
The role of the police during the elections is unacceptable. The police
failed to record grievances, and they failed to act when dissenting party
candidates and others protested against their having been subjected to
intimidation and fraud. The police should have ensured against such
massive fraud and blatant violation of election law.
Tamil opposition parties estimate that tens of thousands of fraudulent
votes may have been cast in Jaffna. Their estimate is more than credible.
Given that the last voter list was compiled in 1986, and that
approximately a third of Jaffna’s population remains displaced, a large
percentage of those who voted in this past election were impostors
carrying the voting cards of displaced and deceased citizens. The Centre
for Monitoring Election Violence has stated: “… on the basis of the
reports that we have received from our observers in the field, we feel
that polling in the Jaffna District was subjected to systematic
impersonation, therefore warranting an annulment of the poll there
followed by a re poll of the District. We urge the Commissioner to
Witnesses in Vavuniya reported election fraud as well. CMEV observed:
“systematic impersonation and distribution of polling cards … at clustered
polling booths” in Omanthai.
In Batticaloa, supporters of dissident LTTE leader Karuna fell into old
habits as they backed their own candidates with similar tactics. The
LTTE’s recent murder of TNA candidate Rajan Sathiyamurthy allied with
the dissident Karuna -- discouraged many voters in Batticaloa town from
going to the polls. But voters from “uncleared” areas received explicit
instructions to vote for select candidates, and did so in large numbers,
particularly after Karuna’s men distributed polling cards to them.
Furthermore, the Muslim constituencies in the East faced rigging both from
the UPFA and SLMC.
SLDF also remains concerned about the safety of dissenting party
candidates and supporters in the North and East. During the last few
weeks, LTTE cadres threatened candidates, their relatives and party
supporters saying that “they would be finished” after the elections.
SLDF’s worst fears to date were realized as two candidates were murdered
and at least six others related to the elections were murdered or
seriously injured after Amnesty International issued the following
statement on February 27, 2004: “In the run up to parliamentary elections
called for 2 April, Amnesty International is urging political parties and
the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to instruct their members not
to assassinate political opponents or their supporters, or carry out other
violent attacks on party activists and election monitors during the
election period.” SLDF calls on the President, the caretaker government
and the international community to ensure the safety of dissenting party
candidates and supporters after the elections, as retributive killings are
likely to target candidates and party workers that did not fall in line
with the LTTE’s threats.
SLDF can only conclude that this election bears little if any meaning for
the people of the North and East. The right to vote and choose one’s
political representatives freely is precious, and that right has been
denied to the people of the North and East for decades. Opposition
candidates were summarily denied the opportunity to state their views to
the people of the North and East, and in some horrific cases, simply
eliminated of their existence altogether. During this election, the
typically sacrosanct act of casting one’s vote, so essential to the
democratic process, was denigrated into an object of utter ridicule.
Election fraud constitutes an atrocious act of theft that strips from
people, already disempowered, one of the few rights they still own. We
therefore lend our overwhelming support to all whom call to annul the
results of this election, and hold a fresh vote.
Published: Fri Apr 2 23:08:12 EST 2004