COLOMBO: Campaigning for Sri Lanka’s Nov. 16 presidential elections came to an end on Wednesday.
Competition is tight between the United National Front’s (UNF) candidate, Sajith Premadasa, and former Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna.
Rajapaksa’s final rally took place in the town of Homagama on Wednesday evening, while Premadasa concluded his campaign in Colombo.
Thus far, 35 candidates have submitted their nominations, while two — Milroy Fernando and Dr. I.M. Illyas — have openly urged supporters to vote for Premadasa.
In comments to the media on Wednesday, Mahinda Deshapriya, chairman of the Election Commission of Sri Lanka, said all candidates have been requested to attend a special meeting on Thursday to be briefed about the electoral process, including the counting of votes and the announcement of results.
The commission urged the candidates not to partake in any promotional activities on social media.
It has received 3,729 complaints pertaining to vandalism and violation of laws, leading up to the elections, with 27 cases of violence reported. Additionally, 3,596 election law violations were reported.
To address these concerns, the commission is setting up complaints offices at the Elections Secretariat in Rajagiriya and all other district offices.
Ali Sabry, chief legal adviser to Gotabaya, told Arab News that a proven track record will propel Gotabaya to victory.
Sabry added that Gotabaya is taking credit for eliminating terrorism in Sri Lanka. Industry and Commerce Minister Rishath Bathiudeen, who was involved in Premadasa’s political campaign, told Arab News that he is hopeful about his candidate’s chances.
Bathiudeen, who is the leader of the All Ceylon Makkal Congress, said Premadasa would garner 95 percent of the Muslim vote and a majority of Tamil votes.
Azath Salley, leader of the National Unity Alliance, said: “The majority of the Tamil and Muslim communities are with … Premadasa.”
Meanwhile, the chair of the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka, N. M. Amin, said this is the first time that incidents of election violence are few and far between.
Meanwhile, a group deployed by the Commonwealth to observe the presidential elections has called on stakeholders to demonstrate a commitment to a “peaceful, transparent, credible and inclusive” poll.
The Commonwealth Observer Group (COG) was invited by the Election Commission of Sri Lanka to observe the poll.
The COG will receive briefings from relevant stakeholders including election management officials, representatives of political parties, civil society groups, the police, members of the international community, citizens and international observers.
In a statement, COG Chair Prosper Bani said: “As independent observers, we will remain objective and impartial in discharging our duties. The Group’s assessment will be its own and not that of any Commonwealth member country. We hope that our group’s presence will support the strengthening of democracy in Sri Lanka.”