Pre-poll violence mars election campaigns in Sri Lanka

August 21st, 2008 - 5:09 pm ICT by IANS  

Colombo, Aug 21 (IANS) Campaigning for elections for two of Sri Lanka’s nine provincial councils has ended, with independent monitors accusing the ruling and opposition parties of resorting to violence.Balloting is scheduled for the Sabaragamuwa and North-Central provincial councils Saturday. The ruling coalition UPFA of President Mahinda Rajapaksa faces a stiff challenge from the United National Party (UNP) of former prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

The radical Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) also poses a formidable challenge to the two parties, mainly in the North-Central province.

These two councils were ruled by UFPA when a snap poll was declared last month. While the UFPA has re-nominated its former chief ministers, the UNP has fielded a retired military general and a Sinhala cinema hero as chief ministerial candidates.

The independent People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL) said that as of Tuesday it had received 128 complaints from the two provinces.

According to reports, the main office housed at the residence of UNP stalwart Raja Johnpulle was set on fire Wednesday night by thugs at Anuradhapura. But the politician survived with minor injuries.

About 10 vehicles parked outside Johnpulle’s residence were also torched.

In another incident, an ardent supporter of the UPFA’s chief ministerial candidate for the North Central provincial council, Berty Premalal Dissanayake, has been shot and wounded by unidentified gunmen Wednesday. The attackers also set fire to his luxury double cab vehicle.

With the campaign having ended midnight Wednesday, police said that nearly 21,000 police personnel would be deployed for election duties.

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