Former Northern Province Chief Minister and leader of the Tamil Makkal Thesiya Kootani (TMTK) C.V. Wigneswaran, expressed his concerns to the Swiss Ambassador about the security of ballot boxes from the military in the North-East during the upcoming parliamentary elections.
Wigneswaran told Swiss Ambassador Hanspeter Mock and the Swiss Embassy Human Security Advisor Ms Sidonia Gabriel, that he fears of military interference in the elections after they were asked to monitor and transport ballot boxes and urged the High Commissioner to “ask the government to pull the military and keep them at military camps in the lead up to the elections,” during a meeting on Monday.
“There is reason to believe that summoning the military to guard the ballot boxes will inevitably lead to anti-democratic measures,” he said. Wigneswaran then questioned the “importance of the army” and “why it had been deployed in the Northern Province for no reason at all.”
He also insisted that the Sri Lankan government are merely using the pretence of the pandemic to justify the increased militarisation in the North-East. “Although it has been said that the military troops were called into the Northern Province for reasons relating to COVID-19, the military has not been involved in any corona [COVID-19] prevention measures”, said Wigneswaran. Instead, “they [the army] are engaged in activities that harass people. You have to make this known to international high commissioners and others.”
Wigneswaran stressed ‘there are three army personnel per village officer and this makes one worry if the army will also dictate civil matters in the futures.”
He stated he suspects and fears that “the government is using the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse for military deployment to intimidate the people and prevent them from going to the polls in the coming elections.”
“I can’t understand why about 20 roadblocks have been set up by the military on the U-9 road,” he added.
In response to Wigneswaran’s calls, Mock insisted he would inform the concerned individuals about Wigneswaran’s apprehension.
Recently, candidates contesting for the upcoming parliamentary elections from the Tamil National People's Front (TNPF), were said to be “on the verge of withdrawing due to ferocious threats and harassment” from Sri Lankan military intelligence and other personnel, according to the party’s leader, Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam.