“Heads of local government lead election violence,” alleges CMEV
By Maheen Senanayake
“Heads of Local governments including Pradeshiya Sabha Chairmen are being front-lined by powerful government ministers to spearhead violence against opposition members,” alleged Manjula Gajanayake, National Co-ordinator for the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV).
“We arrived at this assessment after analyzing several incidents. We can cite at least three notable instances when Pradeshiya Sabha members and chairmen are alleged to have been involved in violence against opposition members including blatant thuggery in the presence of hundreds of people and in broad day light,” he further said.
However, residents claim that the police despite all the evidence available is dragging its feet due to the powerful forces behind the incident. The perpetrators are yet to be brought to book.
“Last week, in Divulapitiya in the Gampaha District, a youth who protested against a cutout of the president being put up at his residence was assaulted by no less than the Pradeshiya Sabha Chairman and members. Moreover, the Pradeshiya Sabha Chairman subsequently admitted on media to having assaulted the youth who had objected to the party putting up a cut out at his residence,” Gajanayake also noted.
Previously, on the day the common opposition candidate was named, Chamila Ranasinghe, a former Prasdeshiya Sabha member and UNP supporter was shot at Maggona junction in the Kalutara district.
“This youth is still under Intensive care at the National Hospital in Colombo”, Gajanayake said.
Sources claimed video footage taken by onlookers have also been handed over to the police. CCTV camera footage from the vicinity clearly have shown the assailants stepping out of a hybrid vehicle before the shooting had taken place.
The CMEV claims the family members of the victim allege several members of the Pradeshiya Sabha are behind the incident. Attempts to contact Dr. Anil Jasinghe, Director of NHSL to find out the condition of Ranasinghe were unsuccessful.
One resident in Colombo was furious. “These are elected members and they are from the government party. They expect to promote their party and their candidate with these blatant displays of violence. Forget the executive presidency and its ills. These are heads of local authorities. How can we allow these things to continue? We constantly hear of Pradeshiya Sabha members’ involvements in crimes and violations. This has to stop.”
One businessman and head of a large business conglomerate who did not want to be named claimed he had voted twice for the president. “I will be voting for him this time too but this kind of thing is galling.”
Commenting on the attack on renowned artist Jayathilaka Bandara, Chandragupta Thenuwara, a well known artist, said “Jayathilaka has been at the forefront of opposition to the conduct of this government; its corruption, its violence and total disregard for humanity, democracy and the rule of law. He is an exceptional musician and star and an attack on this figure of resistance to oppression is a clear indication of the defensive stance of those in power. I, as an artist, condemn this act of violence”.
When asked his views on the attack on Jayathilaka Bandara, popular actor Ravindra Randeniya who we had woken up from his sick bed asked “Who is Jayathilaka Bandara? Is he an actor or musician?”
Asked on his views on his position on the up-coming presidential election, he said “It is a very broad question and my general view is that the war victory has brought the people peace and the country is going through a phase of development. My view is that this process where people live at peace should not be reversed”.
However, minutes later, Randeniya called the Sunday Island to say “I think I should answer that question differently. I was sick and when you called I was slightly disoriented. Irrespective of whether I know this Jayathilaka Bandara or not, I categorically condemn this act of violence on Jayathilaka Bandara”.the island