Police yesterday threatened to file court action if any military roadblocks or checkpoints were set up in the Jaffna District today, as such obstacles to voting would constitute a violation of election laws.
Against the objections of the army and local security forces commanders, police yesterday ordered the roadblocks be dismantled insisting that freedom of movement was essential for voters in Jaffna to be able to exercise their franchise.
Responding to reports of heightened military patrols and checkpoints in and around the Jaffna District, the Acting IGP and Elections Commission yesterday ordered Senior DIG Ravi Seneviratne, who oversees the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), Terrorist Investigation Division (TID) and Financial Crime Investigation Division (FCID), to immediately deploy in Jaffna a specially picked team of police officers and CID detectives.
Seneviratne’s team was airlifted from Colombo to the Palali Airport in Jaffna yesterday morning to take command of police security operations in the region and ensure that all voters are able to safely travel to and from their polling places to cast their votes unimpeded by military roadblocks or paramilitary interferences, Police Headquarters sources told the Daily Mirror.
Upon their arrival in Jaffna, the fresh police team set up operations and discovered the illegal army roadblocks in place on the Pallai Road according to a police officer deployed in the Jaffna Peninsula.
Army officers initially refused to dismantle the roadblocks despite an order given yesterday by President Sirisena that all military forces were to be confined to barracks unless contrary instructions were received from the IGP or the Elections Commission.
When information of the roadblocks reached the Elections Commission, the commission authorised Acting IGP Chandra Wickremaratne and SDIG Seneviratne to order the removal of roadblocks and prevent any further barricades or obstacles from being deployed by the military.
Police Spokesman SSP Ruwan Gunasekara confirmed last night that despite the army has refused to remove the roadblocks, according to election law, all roadblocks should have been removed prior to the poll. Gunasekara said if the police discovered any roadblocks or other impediments to the free and safe passage of voters today, immediate steps would be taken to dismantle them and file charges in courts.
The Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) last night in a statement confirmed that the army camp within the Palali High-Security Zone has removed the two remaining permanent roadblocks in the area “to facilitate voting” today. (Nirmala Kannangara)