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Sri Lanka heading for flawed election: official

[Gulf Times, Thursday, 21 January 2010 10:24 No Comment]

Sri Lanka’s upcoming presidential polls could be seriously flawed as state officials violated laws governing the conduct of the vote, the country’s independent elections chief has said.

Elections Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake was quoted as saying yesterday that he had stopped issuing directives to the police and other government authorities who disregarded his orders for conducting a free and fair election.

“Dissanayake said he would not issue any more directions to the police because his directions have been ignored in the run-up to the January 26 presidential election,” the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) said.

The CPA, whose affiliate the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence has access to the elections commission, said Dissanayake told party representatives that he had become helpless.

“The commissioner of elections appears to have given up on his attempts to enforce the law in terms of his powers,” the CPA said in a statement.

“He has withdrawn the competent authority appointed to regulate the state media institutions due to the refusal of those bodies to implement his directions.”

The elections commission has declined comment, but has been meeting with representatives of political parties to discuss next week’s poll in which President Mahinda Rajapakse is seeking re-election.

Police have reported at least four campaign-related deaths and have also received complaints of more than 700 poll-related incidents of violence across the island.

The CPA said there was rising trend of violence and a possibility for widespread election malpractice.

“It is also in the interests of those contesting this historic first post-war presidential election that there is no scope for question of the integrity of the electoral process and its legitimacy,” the CPA said.

Rajapakse called the election two years ahead of schedule to benefit from popularity following the crushing of Tamil Tiger separatists in May last year.

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