NPC polls brisk, despite allegations of army threats
Tamils across Sri Lanka’s Northern Province came out in large numbers to vote in the first-ever elections to the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) on Saturday, despite attempts by some elements to create a fear psychosis with an aim of preventing people from voting for the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) which is expected to win convincingly.
The campaign and polling were generally peaceful, with only a few incidents of violence and naked intimidation. Foreign observers unofficially told Express that over 60 per cent would have voted, which they described as good polling.
However, the observers were concerned about allegations by monitoring agents and voters of military intelligence personnel intimidating voters by subtle means. These men in civvies were allegedly watching the voters in the polling booths with a notebook in hand. It was said that they were posing as polling agents for pro-government parties.
What was particularly worrying for the observers was a poster pasted all over the Jaffna peninsula asking people to “think twice” before voting for the TNA as that would mean going back to war. The posters had a picture of the AK 47 rifle which the LTTE had used. On Friday, the house of TNA candidate Ananthi Sasitharan, whose husband Elilan was one of the top leaders of the LTTE, was attacked, allegedly by military intelligence. One of the Lankan election monitors, who had gone to rescue Ananthi, was beaten up. On polling day, an attempt was made to abduct a TNA activist at Varani near Chavakachcheri. The abductors who, according to the TNA MP Suresh Premachandran, were military intelligence personnel, fired on a TNA vehicle.
“However, none of these deterred the voters because they were determined to show that the Tamils’ political aspirations could not be quashed,” said D Sidharthan, a TNA candidate. “The more the intimidation, the greater the peoples’ urge to come out and vote for the TNA, though some had decided not to vote out of fear,” said a Catholic priest from Ilavalai.
Support for Regime
However, the parties aligned with the Mahinda Rajapaksa government also had supporters. “Pro-government parties had worked for the people giving them jobs and resources. The beneficiaries feel obliged to vote for them,” explained Appapillai Vedanayagam, a shop keeper at Chunnagam.