Sri Lanka EC Probing Troops Deployment Reports
COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s Election Commission today said it is investigating reports that armed forces were being deployed in the country’s Tamil-dominated north to influence voter-turnout ahead of tomorrow’s bitterly-fought presidential poll already marred by violence.
Chief Election Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya said he has received complaints that troops were being deployed in the northern Wanni region in violation of the election laws.
“I have already taken this up with the army commander, who says he has not ordered troops to deploy,” Deshapriya told reporters on the eve of the election.
“I have been told that there had been ‘stand-by orders’ given to send the army to police stations and other vital institutions,” he said.
The northern region is dominated by the country’s minority Tamil among whom President Rajapaksa stands quite unpopular for speaheading Sri Lanka’s win over the LTTE in 2009.
Rajapaksa is also criticised in these areas because of the tardy reconcilitaion and rehabilitaion process and war crimes allegation against the Sri Lankan troops during the nearly three-decade war.
The Tamils, who make up the largest minority in Sri Lanka, could be the deciders as the majority Sinhalese, who account for 70 per cent of its 21 million population, appear likely to be evenly distributed between Rajapaksa and his arch rival Maithripala Sirisena.
The Election Commissioner has also warned two state-owned television networks and radio broadcaster for broadcasting election propaganda, violating election laws.
The broadcasters were told they would be taken off the list of media houses allowed to broadcast election results if they continue to violate election laws.
Meanwhile, the High Court today refused to vacate a District Court order barring the Independent Television Network (ITN), Rupavahini, Swarnavahini and Derana from broadcasting election campaign propaganda.
Deshapriya said troops had no role in the polls and police were capable of esuring free and fair polling at 49 counting centres and 12,314 polling booths, at which 15 million people are eligible to vote.
The Police Department today said that 66,100 police personnel have been deployed on election duties and they would be armed with a T56 automatic assault rifles.