The Tamil Times reported in August 1981...
"The elections for the newly created District
Development Councils in the Jaffna District, Sri Lanka
were held on 4th June 1981. The massive and extensive
officially admitted irregularities and illegalities that
characterised the conduct of these elections were
The 'Nation', a weekly newspaper published in Sri
Lanka has revealed the details of the attempted rigging
of these elections.
A grama sevaka (Village Headman) an office messenger
(Peon), several village level cultivation officers,
junior clerks and assistant teachers were amongst those
who officiated as senior presiding officers and
counting officers at the elections to the Jaffna
District Development Council held on the 4th of June.
These were not officials duly selected by the
Commissioner of Elections but were handpicked by the
high command of the United National Party. Altogether
150 officials picked by the Commissioner of Elections
were replaced by nominees of the ruling party just
before the poll.
For the first time in this country the conduct of an
election was wrested from the control of the duly
constituted authority and exercised by a political
party. Thus, has the ruling United National Party
celebrated the Golden Jubilee of universal adult
suffrage in Sri Lanka.
The 'Nation learns from reliable sources in the
administration that the Commissioner of Elections Mr.
M.A. Piyasekera, may tender his resignation as a
protest against this Government, attempt to rig an
election. Commentators observe that the exercise in
Jaffna was a test run for similar plans for future
elections to Parliament and to the Presidency, plans
calculated to destroy the electoral franchise of the
entire nation. Even in Districts such as Colombo the
principle of secret ballot was violated by senior
presiding officers, under UNP political direction, so
to place the voting cubicles that they could observe
the manner in which voters marked their ballot
In Jaffna, the politically picked senior presiding
officers, neither knew the procedure for the conduct of
the poll nor were they able to perform their duties as
Their very incompetence and the resistance of
impartial public officers who could not be removed by
Government leaders posted to Jaffna made the UNP
assault on the franchise an ignominious failure. The
UNP got only 7.37% of 315,999 ballot papers available
on the count which took place 12 days after the date of
the election. In countless general elections and
by-elections in the past fifty years, to the State
Council to Parliament, to the National State Assembly
to numerous local bodies, not one ballot box has ever
been lost or even been out of sight of responsible
persons from the beginning of a poll to the end of a
The 'Nation' has learned the identities of the UNP
nominees who replaced the appointees of the
Commissioner of Elections as Senior Presiding officers
and counting officers. The names of some of them and
the polling stations they were incharge of are given
1. Lekamlage Rupasirighe, Grama Sevaka Galamula
G.S. Division No. 298, Kurunegala District-Senior
Presiding officer and Counting Officer, polling station
No. C20, Kankesanturai.
2. S.B.C. Gunaratna Banda, Cultivation Officer,
Kurnegala District, Senior Presiding Officer and
Counting Officer, Polling Station No. C42,
3. M. Piyatissa, Peon. Kurunegala Kachcheri-S P.O.
and C.O. Polling Station No. C39, Kankesanturai.
4. Warnakulasuriya George Sunil Tissera, Punch
Card-Operator Department of Census and Statistics SPO
C.O. Polling Station No. 12. Udupiddy
5. J.M. Abeyratne, Cultivation Offi cer
Kuliyapitiya, Kurunegala. DistrictSPO and C.O., Polling
Station No. C39 Kankesanturai.
6. A.M. Wimalasara, Clerk, Judicial Service
Commission - S.P.O. and C.O. Polling Station No. C37,
Several senior Presiding Officers make frank
revelations in their statutory reports to the Returning
officer, Jaffna District. A. C. Kumarasinghe, S.P.O.
Polling Station No. 7, Kankesanturai reports that he
could commence the poll at his station only at 11.30
a.m. and that after the closure of the poll, he
despatched the ballot box to the Kachcheri without
counting the votes as he had no instruction on the
procedure. K. Mathiyaparanam, S.P 0. of polling station
in Myliddy reports that he could not complete the count
at his station as he was not permitted to do so by
security personnel. S.B.C. Gunaratne, the Cultivation
Officer from Kurunegala also reports that he sent the
ballot box from his station to the Kachcheri without
conducting the count.
40 of UNP replacements for the appointees of the
Commissioner of Elections were got down from Kurunegala
on the morning of the election day. It is
understandable that they did not know the procedure
laid down in the law and in the instructions issued to
proper appointees by the Commissioner. They could have
known only the instructions they had received from
their political instructors.
The first prong of the UNP strategy to gain at least
one DC seat in Jaffna District was the direct
interference reported above. The second prong was
inhuman both in conception and its consequences.
Several hundred men picked for their readiness to do
anything were sent from UNP electorates to Jaffna a few
days before the poll. According to informed sources
they were deliberately dressed in such a manner as to
deceive people into believing that UNP mobsters were
policemen in plain-clothes. The UNP thus not only
ravaged the area, but also sought to throw the blame on
the Police. Reports from Jaffna indicate that public
have not been deceived.
The UNP campaign directors posted to Jaffna for the
election were Caluwadewage Cyril Mathew, Landed
Proprietor, Lionel Gamini Dissanayake, Attorney at law.
Mathew is often referred to as the 'Bete Noir' of the
Tamils. The question is, was he in Jaffna to win the
hearts of the Tamil voters and help the UNP defeat the
TULF with his appeal to the people of Jaffna? If so he
did not succeed, not even with the assistance of Lionel
Gamini and Michael Festus Wenceslaus.