Election Commission member Ratnajeevan H. Hoole noted in an emailed statement that the deployment of the military, especially in the North, has expanded rapidly.
He said that former Member of Parliament Ms. Shanthi Sriskantharasa had complained that intelligence personnel had visited homes of some candidates and sought information on where they are travelling to and where their meetings are scheduled.
“In law, a candidate has to inform the Police only if using a loudspeaker but Tamil candidates are scared to tell this to the intelligence personnel interrogating them,” Hoole said.
He also said that the Army has put up check-points in the North and Commission officers are stopped by the army and their vehicles examined.
“Our ACE for Kilinochchi, a new recruit, was stopped twice on the 5 July and was forced by soldiers to open his motor-car dicky twice. He grumbled to friends but when reporters questioned him, he denied it in fear. I have verified from two sources that it happened twice on Sunday 5 July 2020 on the road from Batticaloa to Kilinochchi. That is how fear grips Tamil election officers and how they will report any rigging by the Army. Many Tamil officials when complaints are taken to them respond with empty excuses like there is no proof when proof is offered to them, no action can be taken about Facebook posts, getting election material blessed at a temple is private worship, etc,” he said.
Hoole noted that the integrity of the election system depends on brave election officers like K. Kandeepan (ACE, Mullaitivu) who, on his own initiative, is reportedly going about taking photos and filing complaints.
“A night ago, Mannar MP Charles Nirmalanathan’s vehicle was travelling in Mullaitivu District carrying little pocket-cards advertising him to be given to voters. They are legitimate; only posters are prohibited. The military stopped the vehicle and confiscated the cards,” he said.
Hoole said that when the Commission met the President on 17 June two key promises he made are that the Army would not be deployed during the election and that only the Police would be used and that medical COVID guidelines would be gazetted. (Colombo Gazette)