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Report on Violence at the Presidential Elections 1999

By Sandaruwan Madduma Bandara



The 1999 Presidential election can be analysed by breaking it down into four major segments; i. the campaign, ii. polling, iii. counting and, iv. post election. This report analyses the level of criminal behaviour adopted by the Government and the extent to which it significantly affected the outcome of the election. The polling and counting, both of which took place on the 21st of December, are aspects that had the most serious impact. The post election violence and intimidation, while having no impact on the election results, can be viewed as a manifestation of the Government’s complicity in rigging the election. Further, it shows the unnecessarily vindictive nature of the Government, which is evidence of the complete disregard it has for democratic processes. All incidents reported to the Operations Room at the UNP headquarters at “Siri Kotha” are listed in summary format as evidence.

 The Campaign

 The campaign spanned a period of about a month, from the close of official nominations to the 18th of December. The incidents reported during this period range from murder to intimidation on a widespread scale. Nearly all districts of the country were affected with specific electorates suffering a state of terror. The incidents further include obstruction of UNP propaganda activity in the form of refusing permission to hold meetings, disrupting meetings, destroying UNP materials, disruption of power, false arrest of UNP members, etc. UNP organizers and activists were also killed, kidnapped, raped, assaulted, had their houses destroyed, were threatened with death and harassed in various ways.

 Overall it is certain that the violence and lawbreaking that took place during the campaign had a significant impact on the number of votes the UNP received. The party did not make as much progress in getting voters due to the harassment, intimidation and prevention from reaching polling centres. Further, by means of intimidation a large number of UNP voters were discouraged from supporting the party.

 It must be noted that the President used the incident of the bombing on 18th December as an excuse to continue campaigning beyond the official close of the campaign. Further, PA supporters continued to hold illegitimate election rallies on the 19th and 20th of December. Even though both the Elections Commissioner and the DIG of Police were informed of these activities, they failed to take remedial action.

 The state media including Rupavahini, SLBC and Government newspapers were shamelessly utilized in presenting a biased picture to viewers and readers. Since the Government media have the widest coverage in the Island, this gave the Government a clear and unfair advantage in propaganda activities. It is assessed that the false rumour spread by the Government media concerning a solution to the ethnic problem expressed by the UNP, cost the party a large number of votes. Government officials and vehicles were also illegally utilized for PA propaganda activity.


 The most significant impact on voting occurred at this point in the elections. Polling stations across the country were attacked and had their security breached. In some instances this was done with the connivance of the polling officers and policemen assigned to each station. At other times it was done by armed thugs who were in many cases led by Ministers and MP’s of the ruling party. Ballot stuffing was done by impersonation, blatant stuffing, interception of boxes on route to counting stations and by various other means. Many Senior Presiding Officers’s either did not report serious incidents at their polling stations or were forced not to report them. Therefore most polling booths returned nil reports concerning violence and other activity affecting the election results. Based on reports received from all parts of the country and on information received from undisclosed sources in the Government the party has reason to believe that at least 700,000 votes were illegally cast or counted at the 1999 Presidential Elections. 


 Procedure and security were also seriously breached at counting centres. In many instances prominent PA members unduly pressurized counting officers to depart from procedure. Invalid ballots were counted. Ballot boxes that did not have official seals were considered to contain valid votes. Multiple ballot papers with the same number were counted. Ballot papers were not checked for the Government seal, perforation and watermark. Unauthourised persons were permitted to enter counting centres with firearms and influence the proceedings. A more specific analysis of breaches in the election procedure are given later on in this report.

 Post Election:

The Government has engaged in a serious campaign of revenge against UNP members, supporters and voters after the election results were officially released. For instance in Gampaha district an organized campaign of arson was directed against the homes of UNP members. Business premises and vehicles of UNP supporters were destroyed. Many UNP members continue to be harassed, intimidated and threatened with death. In Wattegama, in the electorate belonging to the Hon. Deputy Minister of Defence, it is reported that two persons were taken to the side of a road in broad daylight and executed by shooting. Government employees in particular have become victims of the PA’s campaign of vengeance. So far at least 175 Government employees who supported the UNP have been transferred, interdicted, fired, assaulted and not permitted to return to work. A comprehensive summary is given at the end of this report concerning the victimization of Government Employees.

 The Worst Affected Areas:

 The areas worst affected by election violence and rigging, were identified as follows: Puttalam, Polonnaruwa, Anuradhapura, Kandy, Gampaha, Colombo, Matale, Kegalle, Kurunegala, Ratnapura districts. The following specific electorates were identified as having been severely affected: Katugampola, Divulapitiya, Dimbulagala, Aranayake, Kalawewa, Anamaduwa, Walapone, Rambukkana, Hanguranketa, Katane, Rathgama, Beruwela, Laggala, Maharagama, Aralaganwila, Digamadulla, Mawanella, Mahiyangane, Deniyaya, Dambulla, Bibile, Mawathagama, Galgamuwa, Deraniyagala, Wariyapola, Ja-Ela, Gampola, Ududumbara, Pathadumbara, Gampola, Nikaweratiya.

 The following prominent members of the Government have been named or directly implicated as having ostensibly contributed most to election violence and lawbreaking. :

 (24 names of People’s Alliance Ministers and Deputy Ministers have been suppressed due to legal reasons. A petition challenging the result of the 1999 Presidential Elections is currently before the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka).

Breakdown of Polling System:

 The Presidential Elections of 1999 were a farce from beginning to end. It is probable that the violence, intimidation and vote rigging were of a magnitude that changed the outcome of the election. For the most part, International observers were not exposed to the depth and frequency of election malpractices and criminal activity. It is for this reason that they reported that the election appeared to be free and fair. It is nothing short of astounding that international observers should make such an assumption when there were 21 murders alone, of UNP members who were ostensibly engaged in party activity.

 The following specific areas have been identified as serious breaches in the elections system:

  • The selection of Senior Presiding Officers and staff for polling centres is usually done by lottery on the day immediately preceding the election. At these elections the polling centre staff were hand picked by PA ministers well in advance of the election date. This directly points to a premeditated intention on the part of the Government to interfere with the voting.
  • All ballot papers are required to have the Government seal on the back. This is to certify that all such ballot papers have been officially issued. However, many ballot papers were used that did not have the seal at the back. Clearly these were ballots that were cast illegitimately. However, such ballots without the seal were counted as valid votes.
  • All legally cast ballots are also required to be perforated at the time of being handed over to the voter. One method of identifying illegally cast ballots is to check for unperforated ballots at the counting centre. However, even ballots that were not perforated were counted as valid votes. This is a clear indication that the presiding officers at counting stations were intentionally ignoring evidence of vote rigging.
  • All legal ballots are printed on paper that has a watermark. Any ballots found in ballot boxes without the watermark should be discarded at the counting centre. This was not done. This has particular relevance since the PA engaged in widespread photocopying of ballots which were then used to illegally cast additional votes. As proved by the Hon. Mr. Gamini Atukorale in the “Janahanda” program on TNL television, multiple ballots bearing the same number were used by PA supporters to rig the voting.
  • One of the most serious incidents was the arrival of ballot boxes on which official seals had been broken after they had left the polling centres. This is clear cut evidence that the ballot box has been intercepted on route and stuffed with illegal votes. However officers at counting centres insisted on treating such boxes as containing valid votes.
  • There was a complete breakdown of security at counting centres. This is perhaps the first national election at which this situation has arisen on a serious level. Unauthourised persons were permitted to entre counting centres and interfere with procedure. In many cases it was these armed intruders who determined that ballot boxes or papers that were obviously tampered with would be counted as valid.
  • The breakdown of security at polling centres was far more widespread and serious. In some cases voters were forced to display their preference before casting the ballot into the box. This kind of intimidation probably altered the preference of the voter who had to worry about his/her personal safety. Further, polling agents were assaulted and thrown out of polling centres. In the absence of UNP polling agents, PA criminals had the freedom to breach polling procedures.
  • Duplicate poll cards and duplicate registration of PA voters was also noted to have had a significant impact on the election.
  • For the first time the writing out of poll cards was contracted out of the Government unit that traditionally conducted this task. Persons were permitted to take packets of poll cards home to fill them out. It is clear that in all instances where poll cards were taken home some level of tampering took place.
  • Postal voting was also severely rigged. SPO’s were appointed outside of procedure. Unauthourised persons were permitted to enter and remain on the polling premises. They were permitted to stuff boxes and intimidate voters. Polling agents were attacked and thrown out. Further, bundles of sealed postal vote envelopes were taken home, at times by ministers. It is clear that the results in postal voting were significantly impacted by these activities.
  • In all polling stations where any illegitimate incident occurs, the SPO is required to enter it in the Z-report. This was not done in a majority of polling booths where vote rigging took place. Without the report of the SPO, illegally cast votes cannot be cancelled at the polling centre. In a specific incident Deputy Minister Janaka personally stuffed ballot boxes at the Madebadde Madya Maha Vidyalaya in Galewela, Dambulla. However the presiding officer submitted a nil report.
  • Further, Government Agents in many areas were changed or appointed right before the election in and attempt to get GA’s who are biased in favour of the Government in the discharg of their duties.
  • Samurdhi Animators were given the right to use postal votes. This is a completely illegitimate practice. Only those public officers who are directly involved in election duty are eligible to receive postal votes. Samurdhi Animators have no election day duties. Therefore, the only purpose of releasing Samurdhi Animators to do as they please on election day, is to rig the vote. There are around 30,000 Samurdhi Animators and this figure must be considered as a base illegally cast vote number in favour of the Government. Further, if each of these Samurdhi Animators was then able to rig at least one vote (which is almost a given), the base figure of rigging goes up to around 60,000 votes.
  • Many public servants who were eligible to receive the postal vote were not given the vote.
  • The Government printed 100,000 extra ballot papers, claiming that 100,000 of ballots printed earlier had irregular marks on them. The Government should produce these ballots under a writ of mandamus to prove that it did not use them to rig votes at the election. It is almost certain that the Government will not be able to produce these so-called faulty ballot papers, as they were probably cast.
  • In some polling centres, more votes were cast than the registered number of votes. This was true in electorates like Galgamuwa in Kurunegala. However, even when the number of votes counted surpassed the number of registered voters at a particular booth, the counting continued. Once again this points to a deliberate attempt by planted counting officers to falsely measure the true outcome of the election.
  • In many counting centres the UNP was declared the winner at the first count. At this point UNP counting agents were assaulted and thrown out. Following this a so-called 2nd and 3rd count were conducted and the PA agents then declared a result as they pleased. We are aware that in the Gampaha district the UNP was declared the winner in 5 electorates including Kelaniya. However, following this all UNP agents were forcibly removed from the counting centre. In the official results for Gampaha the UNP has not won any electorates.

Statistical Irregularities:

Given the actual literacy and sophistication among voters, historically it has been noted that around 5% of votes cast are rejected due to various disqualifications. Although this percentage can be expected to be marginally lower in Presidential elections due to simpler ballot formats, the number of votes rejected probably will never be zero. However, in a careful analysis of election results it can be noted that even in many large electorates with around 100,000 voters, there isn’t a single rejected ballot. This is a clear statistical irregularity that does not confirm to historical patterns of rejected votes. Therefore, it can be concluded that in all electorates where the number of rejected votes is zero or less than 1%, rigging has taken place at a substantial level.

Statistical Summary:

Crime                                                                           Number of Incidents

Murder                                                                            21

Attempted Murder                                                        17

Armed Assault                                                               61

Kidnap                                                                              4

Grievious Bodily Harm                                                   2

Death Threats                                                                55

Shootings                                                                       19

Arson                                                                                9

Destruction of Property                                               74

Use of Government Vehicles                                       78

Kidnap                                                                              4

Police Complicity                                                          24

Attempted Rape                                                              2

Known Incidents Vote Rigging                                760

Bombings                                                                         8

Armed Robbery                                                              6

Policemen Attacked                                                       3

Attack on Leader of Opposition                                  1

False complaints & arrests of UNP members           91

Use of Vehicles Without No. Plates by PA                9

Impersonation of Public Officers                                 2

Physical Assault of Children                                       3

Attempted Murder of MPs                                          2           

Armed Ex-Convicts Employed by PA                      14

Attacks on Policemen                                                   1

Threats Issued by PA Policemen                                1

Destuction of Property by Policemen                         1

Kidnap by Policemen                                                     1

Supplying of Arms & Ammunition by Police            1

False Arrest of Children of UNP members                 1

Assault of Children while in custody                         1

Govt. Housing Used by PA Thugs                             6

Manufacture of bombs by PA in Govt. House         1

Disruptoin of Power Supply by PA                            1

Assault inside Police Station                                       2

Rape                                                                                 1

Victimisation of Government Employees               175


The entire majority achieved by the PA candidate at the 1999 Presidential elections, can be accounted for and matched with votes suspected to have been stuffed. Further, the level of election related violence and criminal activity as well as the number of polling booths identified as having been affected, is so high, that the election can be explicitly condemned as having been nothing more than a farce. There is no alternative but to conclude that the election was in no way free and fair. Further a reasonable contention can be made that the level of rigging was sufficiently high as to have altered the candidate who should have received the highest number of votes.  

Electorates and Polling Booths Subjected to Serious Rigging

(Polling Day: 21st December 1999)

Colombo District:       (5)

            Kaduwela: Pelawatte MV, Battaramulla MV

            Borella:  Kuppiyawatta Jayasekararamaya,

            Colombo West: St. Mary’s Tamil V., Visaka V.

Kalutara District:       (5)

            Horana: Prajapathi BV, Diksenapura

Panadura: Walana Jubilee Road,

Bandaragama: Arukgoda Sri Mahindarama, Alubomulla MV



Anuradhapura District:          (19) 

Kalawewa: Vijithapura, Kagawa, Maha Iluppallama Seed Farm, Maha Iluppallama Vidyalaya, Unit 4-Rajanganaya, Pahala Pethiyagama, Adiranigama, Divulwewa, Galkiriyawa, Galwaduwa, Areagama, Negama, Walawwegama, Mudunegama, Kalediwulwewa, Thambuththegama, Weragala, Thambuththegama Vidyalaya

Anuradhapura West:  Nochchiyagama Gala Divulwewa (Ballot boxes burnt)

Polonnaruwa District:             (6)

Plonnaruwa: Welikanda, Thamankaduwa, Egodapaththuwa, Laksha Uyana,

            Dimbulagala Border Villages, Muslim Colony Vidyalaya.

Kandy District:           (194)

Kandy: Urawala, Peradeniya, Katugastota Rahula V, Katukele Hindu Center, Theldeniya

Wattegama: Malawinna, Madawala, Manikhinna, Walala, Jambugaspitiya, Wattegama MC, Primary School Wattegama, Pallethalawinna

Yatinuwara: Yawalatenna, Kadugannawa, Kiribathkumbura, Kumbalwathumulla, Urapola, Eriyagama

Kundasale: Dambarawa, Wawinna, Galpihilla, Pilawala

Galagedara: Niyangoda, Giriyagama, Dehideniya, Dambulla, Mandandawala, Galiyawa, Diwuldeniya, Pelana, Waligodapola, Damunupola, Idamegama, Aludeniya,

Nawalapitiya: 48 Polling Stations rigged

Hewaheta: Wandawala, Athulgama, Haputale Ankelipitiya, Koswinna Viharaya, Sriyagama, Kapuliyadda, Wathuliyadda, Udadeltota, Nawathaliya, Maussa,

Nawaneliya JS, Kolabissa JS, Raliwangoda, Naranhinna, Hapuliyadda, Silver Tenna, Uduwela, Bolepa

Udunuwara: Hendeniya, Piligalla, Ambagastenna, Welamboda, Duwanla, Watadeniya, Thalawathura,

Pathadumbara: Meegammana, Pathadumbara, Wattagama, Walana MV, Udatalawinna, Aranthana V, Egodagama 1 & 2, Yatawara Ayurwedaya, Nandaramaya, Pathdumbara MV, Doragamuwa MV, Mahaweli MV Polgolla, Polgolla Cooperative V, Wattegedara Muslim V, Udatalawinna Jamaul Assar Muslim V, Meegammana KV


Gampola: 24 out of 54 Polling Stations rigged

Teldeniya: Dunhinna, Madamahanuwara, Wethideniya, Wegala

Ududumbara: Kalugala, Dumbaragama, Kandegama, Pamunupura, Ulpathgama 1 & 2, Udawela-Burulupotha and 28 others, Kahatapitiya Muslim V, Atabage Pallegama Wimaladharma MV, Yogalechchami,

Senkadagala: Heerassagala, Dasgiriya

Harispaththuwa: Nugawela, Uduwawala

Puttlam District:         (16)

Chilaw: Sebastian Central, Senanayake MMV, Karukkuwa Sugathananda Vidyalaya,  Kinipitiya Junior School, Madampe Suduwella MMV, Galmuruwa, Naththandiya Muhudukatuwa Buddhist Center, Katuneriya, Havana,

Wennappuwa: Maldeka, Nainamadama, Kirimatiyana, Kolinjadiya, Seenor, Ulhitiyawa, Eastern Nainamadama.

Kurunagala District:   (25)

Mawathagama: Udaragama

Wariyapola: Hanhamuna, Dambaliyadda, Malwana, Kawulegama, Karagaswewa, Bayawa, Wamunuwa, Bamunakotuwa, Nawinna,

Hiriyala: Mukullawa, Nelliya 1& 2, Makuluwawa 1 & 2

Katugampola: Galpaya, Etherapitiya, Pannala, Kithulanimiyawa, Iriyagolla, Galyaya.

Kurunagala: Malkaduwawa, Malpitiya, Wegolla, Wennappuwa.

Ratnapura District:    (4)

            Niwithigala: Elkaliya, Dolaswala, Kolambagama, Watapotha,

Matale District:          (31)

Matale: Udasgiriya Anagarika Darmapala V, Divilla Maliyadewa V, Yatawatta Tamil V, Salagama R. C.V, Udasgiriya V, Yatawatta Weeraprakrama V, Madawala Govt. V., Moragahawewa Govt. V, Hulangamuwa Govt. V, Kudiyangoda Girls V,

                Raththota: Warakaura, Udupihilla, Ukuwela, Elkaduwa, Kaduwela.

Sigiriya, Harasgama

            Dambulla: Tittawelgolla, Pannampitiya, Ambul Awe

Laggala:  Gurubabila, Kunkatadela, Dambagahamuduna, Nagala, Ranamunne, Imaduwa, Rabukkaluwa, Nugagolla, Mahawatenna, Sonudda, Wilgamuwa

Badulla District:         (13)

Palangamuwa, Dambarawa, Dickandayaya, Orubendiwewa, Wewatta, 1 & 2, Serana, Arawatta, Sorabora 1 & 2, Kowilyaya, Dehigolla, Uraniya

Kegalle District:         (23)

Rambukkana:Weligamuwa, Pattampitiya, Dombepola, Puwakmote, Pinnawala, Hurimaluwa, Dalukgala, Pitiyagama, Walgampurana, Walalgoda, Molagoda

            Yatiyantota: Malalpola

            Kegalle:  Madeyyawa Polling Station

            Aranayake: 10 out of 45

Nuwara Eliya District:           (20)

Maskeliya: Maskeliya 1, Kalaweldeniya V, Udathalawa V, Widulipura V, Sri Sudharmaramaya V, Kiriwanilliya, Laksapana MMV, Waggawa V, Brownlow Watte Tamil V, Ambagamuwa Vijayaba Privena, Ambagamuwa MMV, Bodidasa Privena.

Walapane: Mathurata Alakolaella

Hanguranketha: Muloya Tamil, Hanguranketha 1 & 2, Arathgama, Pussala Mankada, Madanwala,

Digamadulla District: (2)

            Kalmunai: Kalmunai, Sainthamaruthu

Gampaha District    (5)

            Katana: Katana North Primary School,

            Attanagalla:  Kalatuwawa,

            Minuwangoda:  Ganemulla,Mabodala, Gaoluwa,

Matara District          (1)

            Devinuwara:  Methodist V.,

Statistical Summary

            Ditrict                           Number of Polling Stations

            Colombo                                               5

            Kalutara                                               5

            Anuradhapura                                       19

            Polonnaruwa                                         6

            Kandy                                                  194

            Puttalam                                               16

            Kurunegala                                           25

            Ratnapura                                             4

            Matale                                                  31

            Badulla                                                 13

            Kegalle                                                 23

            Nuwara Eliya                                        20

            Digamadulla                                          2

            Gampaha                                              5

            Matara                                                 1

          TOTAL                                369         

The above is a limited list of polling booths affected. It does not include any information received after the 21st from organizers.