Int'l election monitors to observe Sri Lanka's polls

10:43, January 23, 2010      

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The foreign election observers who are now in Sri Lanka said on Friday that they would monitor the presidential elections in all districts including the North and East where Tamil Tiger rebels were defeated recently.

Forty election monitors of the Association of Asian Elections Authorities (AAEA) told reporters that they would try to observe the polling booths and counting centers which are vulnerable to violence and rigging of votes.

The monitors, who have arrived in the country at the invitation of Elections Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake, said they would closely monitor the violence and rigging of votes on Jan. 26, the elections day.

Pre-election violence has shown an alarming rise during the past few days and local observers are predicting further increase with the D-Day being a few days away.

Both the ruling alliance and the main opposition made appeals to their supporters to give up violence and create a peaceful environment for a free and fair election.

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who declared polls two years before his term ends, is mainly challenged by former Army Commander Sarath Fonseka, who quit the military last November to contest the presidency on behalf of the opposition.

The monitors said they would deploy their members in every district but due to the distance they would not be able to visit all the polling booths.

They promised to closely monitor the election violence, but they would not be responsible for enforcing law and order. A report of the AAEA would be released on Jan. 28.

Over 14 million registered voters in Sri Lanka will be casting their votes at over 11,000 polling booths to select the 6th president.

According to local polls monitors, nearly 800 election-related incidents of violence including five deaths had been reported since the election was declared late November.

The latest incident was Friday morning's grenade attack on the residence of a senior campaign officer of Fonseka in Colombo.

While the opposition's accusations against the government on violence and plans to rig votes are mounting, the government claimed that the opposition deployed army-deserters and accused them of creating pre-polls violence.

The foreign ministry said in a statement that these deserters who were well trained on weapon handling would be used more in the forthcoming election.

"These deserters are not only trained in handling weapons and small arms but some even possess them. There are also former insurgents who are part of the opposition," the statement said.

Source: Xinhua
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