South Asia

Monitors, Amnesty call for violence-free Sri Lanka polls

Polling officers carrying ballot boxes walk with a police officer as they prepare to go to their polling centres ahead of presidential election in Colombo on Wednesday.   | Photo Credit: DINUKA LIYANAWATTE

Sri Lankan authorities should take steps to ensure a violence-free and safe polling and refrain from deploying troops which may influence voter-turnout in the closely fought presidential election on Thursday, poll observers and a leading rights group said.

The People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL), Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) and Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CAFFE) have called for measures to ensure voting is not deterred because of violence in targeted areas.

The groups said authorities should also ensure that there is no staging of incidents near counting centres or to influence counting agents.

They said polling agents should not be threatened or intimidated, and there should be no deployment of armed forces, unless called in by the Election Commissioner, on polling day as it may adversely impact voter turn-out and the integrity of the poll.

Political parties must refrain from using state or private media for its campaign until the polling day, they stressed.

Commenting on the election, London-based Amnesty International said the growing harassment and violence against those campaigning in the coming elections is deeply troubling.

It said the Sri Lankan authorities have a responsibility to ensure that everyone eligible to vote can exercise their rights without facing threats or violence.

Over 15 million will vote on Thursday to elect a new President in one the closest fought election in Sri Lanka’s recent history, which will also see President Mahinda Rajapaksa seeking a record third time in office against his erstwhile No. 2 Maithripala Sirisena, who defected to the opposition as its unity candidate.

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2021 10:41:16 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/south-asia/monitors-amnesty-call-for-violencefree-sri-lanka-polls/article6764329.ece

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