SRI LANKA: Call for police to provide peace and security for elections


Urgent Appeal Case: UA001003-01
ISSUES: Democracy, Freedom of association, Freedom of expression,

AHRC UA Index: 001003 3 October 2000 
UA 35/00: Call for police to provide peace and security for elections 

SRI LANKA: Escalating violence affects freedom of election 

Further to UA 32/00 \”Early Warning of likely escalation of election violence\”, as of 25th September, 13 had died from election-related violence since the campaign began. As of the 28th, the Centre for Monitoring of Election Violence (CMEV) had recorded 850 incidents of violence (or almost 35 per day), with indications that this level is rising even further (61 cases were recorded on September 27). Kindly see the CMEV website for further info: 


The following message is from the Civil Rights Movement in Sri Lanka. It is an appeal to all Sri Lankan police officers to enforce the law with impartiality and to promote peace in the lead-up, process and aftermath of the national elections to be held this Sunday, October 10. Please read this message and send your own letter along similar lines to the Inspector General of Police (sample letter and contact details provided below CRM’s message). 


NOT JUST \”WHO\” BUT \”HOW\” – An appeal to all police officers 

The heavy burden that falls on the police during an election is fully appreciated by the Civil Rights Movement. Once again today police officers, from the highest ranks to sergeants and constables, are called upon to play a crucial, and at times very onerous, role in the defence of values prized by peace-loving citizens. 

It is hardly necessary for us to emphasise to experienced police officers that the role of the police in steadfastly applying the law impartially is crucial in enabling the people to exercise their right of freely and fairly electing their chosen party and candidates. But a free and fair election is not only in the immediate interest of all the people of Sri Lanka. It is fundamental to the continuance of the democracy of our country. It is essential that people have genuine faith in the possibility of peaceful changes of government and leadership. If that faith is lost the prospect of a free and peaceful society, which we believe is fervently desired by the vast majority of Sri Lankans, is imperiled. 

In an election campaign police officers are expected to uphold the law regardless of their own political allegiances. We believe that this, in itself, is not difficult for them. It is a sad fact, however, that often great pressure is put on police officers at various levels to favour particular parties and candidates, either by assisting their misdemeanours or turning a blind eye to them. It is a disgraceful feature of Sri Lankan political life that sometimes such pressures come from responsible people who should know better, and who are willing to jeopardise the long term interests of the country in their indecent greed to seize short term political advantage. 

We appeal to all police officers to do their utmost to resist such pressures. It is the firm belief of the Civil Rights Movement, a non political organisation founded in 1971 and devoted to securing the democratic rights and freedoms of the people of Sri Lanka irrespective of the government in power, that this can be done. It is also a fact that police officers who do their duty without fear or favour have less cause to fear victimisation than in earlier times. Public officers who can show they have been unfairly victimised can now seek legal remedies in the courts, and there exist non political human rights organisations to help them assert their rights. 

It is our experience that long after an election is over, people are likely to remember not just who won, but how they won. People tend to remember how the warring parties conducted themselves, and how the police fulfilled — or failed to fulfil — their role as protectors of law and order. This is talked about for years to come, and often passed on to younger generations. How future generations will remember the General Election of October 2000, the first election of the millenium, lies to a considerable extent in your hands. 

We wish you strength, courage both physical and moral, good humour and patience while going about your duties in the days to come. 

CRM Suriya Wickremasinghe 
31, Charles Place Secretary , Civil Rights Movement 
Colombo 3 18 September 2000 

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Dear Inspector General, 

The police under your charge are faced with the difficult task of ensuring that law and order is maintained in an impartial and peaceful manner in this time surrounding the national elections. You would be aware that 13 people have died so far in election-related violence, and that around 35 violent incidents are taking place each day in this pre-election period. 

Obviously, the task of the police force is a large one. But the Sri Lankan people, as well as the international election monitors and many observers around the world, will be watching and hoping that you can manage to coordinate the Sri Lankan police such that the electoral environment will be safe, free and fair. If you can manage to stop the violence where it is and demonstrate the impartiality and attentiveness of the police force, you will surely win the respect of many around the world. 

This process could include making police officers aware of the legal and civic protections now in place to assist their efforts to remain non-partisan. Additionally, further awareness-raising about the responsibility of each police officer to ignore personal political allegiances and to resist any pressure to ignore or encourage acts of violence could be very beneficial in the task of steadfastly and neutrally administering the law. 

Please do your utmost to protect the lives and the freedom of choice of the Sri Lankan people before, during and immediately following this election, and thank you for your efforts to date. 

Yours sincerely 



Mr. B.L.V. Kodituwakku 
Inspector General of Police 
Police Headquarters 
New Secretariat 
Colombo 1, 
FAX: +941 446 174 
Salutation: Dear Inspector General

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID : UA001003-01
Countries : Sri Lanka,
Issues : Democracy, Freedom of association, Freedom of expression,