Candidates contesting next Thursday`s presidential election have agreed to a pruning down of the number of polling stations in the northern Jaffna peninsula, Government Agent K. Ganesh said yesterday.
He said the decision came after the Defence Ministry and Elections Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake reviewed the security situation in the peninsula.
?Polling stations have been reduced from 624 to 220 in the Jaffna district,? Mr. Ganesh told The Sunday Times yesterday. This is made up of 103 cluster polling stations in the Muhamalai area and 117 in the rest of the peninsula. Muhamalali is the gateway to security forces controlled Jaffna and is separated by a stretch of no-man`s land from the Tiger guerrilla dominated territory in the Wanni.
But Government Agent Ganesh said he had instructed all his officials who have been assigned for election duty to be present. He said he did not expect that the polls in the north would be disrupted due to lack of officials.
Mr. Ganesh said the reduction followed a request by the Ministry of Defence on grounds of security. He said he made the reduction after consultations with Elections Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake. Candidates contesting the presidential election have also given their consent for the reduction, he added.
The move to reduce the number of polling stations comes in the wake of Thursday`s three-and-half-hour meeting between the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and political wing leaders of the LTTE. Following the meeting TNA leader R.Sampanthan declared that both the TNA and the LTTE were convinced that the Tamil people would not benefit by showing any interest in Thursday`s elections. Though the TNA or the LTTE will not stop voters, he said he was confident the Tamil people would not show any interest in the polls.
However in the eastern Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Ampara districts, officials said preparations were under way to conduct the elections as planned.
Trincomalee District Secretary, K. G. Leelananda said there would 278 polling stations, of which 21 would be cluster booths for voters from uncleared areas.
Assistant Elections Commissioner T. Krishnanandalingam said all arrangements to conduct the poll in the Batticaloa district had been completed. He said 353 polling stations would be set up with 88 of them being cluster booths for voters from LTTE-controlled areas.