Sri Lanka last week witnessed its bloodiest week of election violence, which left an elderly woman killed, tens injured and massive damage inflicted to property.
According to the Centre for Monitoring Elections Violence (CMEV), there have been 176 major incidents of election related violence from November 23, 2009 to January 11, 2010 of which most of the major incidents have been reported from the Southern Province.
Incidentally, Hambantota has recorded the highest number of major incidents reported — from a polling division from Tangalle.
The total number of incidents reported from December 15, 2009 to January 14, 2010 amount to a massive 259 incidents, the Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CaFFE) reported last week. Of these incidents, 74 were election law violations, 52 were misuse of state property, 49 were property assaults and six were assaults to individuals
The violence last week kicked off on January 11, when an unidentified group who had masked their faces in black cloth attacked two private buses carrying people returning from a rally in Karandeniya.
On January 12, two serious incidents were reported, one being the first murder of the presidential campaign, the death of 55 year old Kusumawathie Kuruppuarachchi, when a bus of UNP supporters was shot at in Tangalle. She suffered gunshot wounds to her stomach and was first admitted to the Tangalle hospital, along with two others who also sustained injuries during the shooting. She was then transferred to the Matara hospital, where she passed away on arrival. The two gunmen involved were subsequently arrested in Hungama the following day.
The second incident on that very day occurred in Valachchenai, where a grenade was thrown at the house of M.B.S. Hussein, a SLMC supporter, by an unknown group at 1 a.m. The house and furniture suffered much damage but no one was injured in this attack. The police were alerted and arrived at the scene immediately, but there have so far been no leads on the perpetrators of this crime.
The commencement of postal voting has also brought with it a fresh influx of incidents, with the CMEV reporting a total of 27 incidents related to postal voting within the two day period, which ended on Wednesday. Most of these incidents are regarding army soldiers trying to influence voters, the latest incident being the arrest of Army Captain R.D.A. Ranaweera on January 13, after 14 voters lodged complaints against him.
Then on January 14, BBC Sandeshaya journalist Thakshila Dilrukshi Jayasena, along with three other people was injured in a clash between the supporters of the United Peoples Freedom Alliance (UPFA) and the supporters of presidential candidate Sarath Fonseka in Polonnaruwa. Supporters on both sides were injured and several vehicles were burnt during the incident.
Co-Convenor, Centre for Monitoring Election Violence, Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu warned that with the sudden increase of violence since last week, the trend will very likely continue and is likely to increase as January 26, approaches.
“There unfortunately seems to be a willingness on both sides to meet violence with violence, which we can do nothing about. We can only report such incidents. It is a question of what action the relevant authorities will take but with even the Elections Commissioner complaining that his authority is not being heeded, it seems to be that the basic democratic laws are being flouted,” he noted. from sunday leader