SL President Polls in Tamil Region to be Under Quraishi Watch
COLOMBO: Dr S Y Quraishi, former Chief Election Commissioner of India, who is now monitoring the January 8 presidential election, will be keeping an eye on the Northern and Eastern Provinces especially, because these have a sizeable Tamil and Muslim population.
The visit has been necessitated by allegations from opposition parties that the Mahinda Rajapaksa government is planning to deploy the armed forces and officials to rig the elections there because of the critical importance of the Tamil and Muslim vote.
If the minorities vote massively for the Joint Opposition Candidate, Maithripala Sirisena, as they seem inclined to, he will win.
Quraishi told the media here on Sunday, that some opposition parties had complained about the setting up of scores of road blocks in many places in the North. The opposition fears that these road blocks could be used to check the flow of voters to the polling stations.
“When these issues were taken up with the Election Commissioner and the Senior DIG (Elections), they assured us that they will see to it that the election is free and fair. The Election Commissioner seemed supremely confident and the DIG said that he could guarantee a free and fair poll,” Quraishi said.
“Opposition parties told me that so far, it has been largely trouble free. But they were apprehensive about the days to come,” he added.
However, gunshots were fired in the air at a meeting in Polonnaruwa district on Saturday, after opposition candidate, Mathripala Sirisena, had spoken and left. Sirisena alleged that it was an attempt on his life.
He will be visiting Jaffna on Monday and the Eastern Province on Tuesday.
International monitors will be present in every one of the 22 districts of Lanka. However, they will not be able to go wherever they pleased.
The Lankan election commission will decide their itinerary. Given the restrictions, Quraishi said that he would depend a lot on inputs from media persons.
The election will be monitored by over 20,000 persons, including several from Asia countries and the Commonwealth.