The General Secretary of the SLMC M. T. Hassen Ali yesterday urged the government to ensure that over 18,000 displaced Muslim voters, resident in Puttalam, were provided with adequate transport facilities or to establish cluster polling booths to cast their votes in the Mannar and Mullaitivu districts on March 17th.
Quoting the Commissioner of Elections Ali said the former has no provision to provide transport for local elections. Therefore, he had been compelled to make this request to the government to ensure that thousands of displaced Muslims were allowed to exercise their franchise.
The District Secretary for Mannar Nagalingam Vethanayagam said yesterday that there were around 85,000 voters and five local bodies – Mannar, Manthai West, Musali and Nanattan PS’s and Mannar UC.
He was yet to receive a response to the letter written to the Commissioner of Elections requesting facilities for transporting around 8,000 displaced voters or to provide for the setting up of cluster Polling booths.
Hassen Ali said that since these Muslim families were displaced from the North in 1990, they had now been registered in the Puttalam district. A few months ago they were given a deadline and pressured on a directive of the Elections Department to register themselves in their original places of residence or they would lose their franchise.
Sources from the Secretariat in Puttalam for displaced Muslims from the North said yesterday that in the Mannar district 4,922 families from Musali, 2,029 families from Manthai West, 2,188 families from Nanantan, 5,588 families from Mannar and 548 from Madhu had resettled whilst the majority had returned due to inadequate facilities to resettle in their original places .
The sources said that in the Mullaitivu district 1,678 families from Mullaitivu and 12 families from Oddisuddan had registered themselves. This made thousands of displaced Muslim families, which had multiplied in their numbers through marraige go back to only register themselves and return to Puttalam to reside as there were no houses, schools and other public utilities.
Those people who cast their votes in Puttalam during the last Presidential and Parliamentary elections, are not prepared to take two days leave from duties on the 16th and 17th of March and spend out of pocket to travel almost 250 kilometers to stay over in Mannar and Mullaitivu to cast their votes unless the government provide facilities.
SLMC General Secretary Hassen Ali also said that on Tuesday, following the meeting with the Elections Commissioner, UPFA General Secretary Minister Susil Premajayatha, who was also present gave him a firm assurance that he would make arrangements to transport voters.
SLMC sources said that the SLMC was a constituent Party of the UPFA Government with some of its members contesting under the UPFA Banner and Betel Symbol at the forthcoming local elections.
SLMC Leader and Minister of Justice Rauff Hakeem has brought the problem of voting rights of the displaced Muslim from the North to the attention of the Commissioner of Elections Dayananda Dissanayake during meetings in connection with the Local elections.