COLOMBO: The government on Friday denied allegations that the local government elections to be held in the volatile eastern Batticaloa district would be affected by violence and dismissed an appeal by several non-governmental organisations to call off the polls.

“We will go ahead with the elections and take every measure to see that the polls are free of violent incidents,” a government official said shortly after the civil society organisations made a written appeal to call off the polls.

Seven Civil society organisations coming together as the Joint Civil Society, having visited the volatile north and east districts on a fact finding mission last week requested the government to call off the local government elections to be held on March 10.

They also called on the government to disarm all armed groups based in the East by confiscating their weapons.

A report prepared by the group said that the elections ‘seem to be about legitimising brutality through forced political authority and participation’, and pointed out that the common response of the people in Batticaloa is that ‘this election is not for us and not about us’.

“Their only request to candidates is ‘give me back my loved ones and I will vote for you’, the report said citing the opinion of civilians whose kith and kin have been allegedly abducted or ‘disappeared’ in the region where an armed LTTE break away faction supporting the government and contesting the elections has alleged free control.

Contradicting President Rajapakse’s statements that the army had ‘liberated’ the east from terrorism, the Joint Civil Society referring to the LTTE breakaway para military group, has stated that the ‘perpetrators of violence have sought to ‘legitimise their influence by entering mainstream politics while retaining their arms.’

The group’s plea to cancel the polls puts a damper on the claims made by the government of restoring democracy in the east.

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