Treatment of members of the United National Party (UNP) during the October 2000 election campaign, particularly in Colombo; status of the women's wing of the UNP (1997-2000) [LKA37946.E]

The campaign leading to parliamentary elections on 10 October 2000 was characterized by a significant degree of violence and intimidation (The Sunday Leader 15 Oct. 2000a; Sri Lanka Monitor Oct. 2000; Asian Network for Free Elections 15 Oct. 2000). Acts of violence were perpetrated by and directed towards individuals affiliated with a number of political parties, including the United National Party (UNP) (Centre for Monitoring Election Violence 6 Oct. 2000; The Sunday Leader 15 Oct. 2000b). In a statement published on 15 October 2000, the Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL), a Bangkok-based regional network of human rights and election monitoring organizations, stated that

the lack of sincere respect of democratic principles by major political parties, including the ruling People's Alliance (PA) and the opposition United National Party (UNP), had created an atmosphere of intense intimidation, violence and unfairness in the period leading up to the polling day on 10 October 2000. In essence, it appeared that elections in Sri Lanka were based almost entirely on ruthless power play by political rivals to gain advantage at the polls.

As of 6 October 2000, the Colombo-based Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV), a non-partisan organization founded in 1997 by the Centre for Policy Alternatives, the Free Media Movement and the Coalition Against Political Violence, indicated that it had received reports of 1,473 incidents during the election campaign (6 Oct. 2000). These incidents reportedly ranged from murder and assault to intimidation and misuse of state resources (ibid.). According to the CMEV, individuals linked to the UNP were the alleged perpetrators in 19 per cent of the incidents, and the alleged victims in 43.6 per cent of the incidents (ibid.).

On 14 October 2000, the CMEV stated that it had received reports of a total of 2,036 incidents both during the campaign and on the day of the election (ibid. 14 Oct. 2000). Of these, 122 were alleged to have taken place in Colombo Electoral District (ibid.). The CMEV convenor, Arjuna Parakrama, stated that while Colombo was "relatively calm on election day, ... pre-election violence was among the highest in the country" (Centre for Policy Alternatives 2000). In his overview of problems affecting the October 2000 election, Parakrama stated that law enforcement personnel displayed politicization during the campaign, resulting in a "dangerous situation where the law [was] selectively enforced" (ibid.).

Several reports refer to incidents which took place between August and October 2000 in which individuals linked to the UNP were subjected to election-related violence or intimidation; examples follow.

On 23 August 2000, UNP member Chatura Saman was shot and killed by unknown individuals while putting up election posters in Rambukkana, a town in central Sri Lanka (The Sunday Times 10 Sept. 2000; BBC 23 Aug. 2000).

On 5 September 2000, two individuals were killed in Amparai when members of the Sri Lankan Muslim Congress (SLMC) reportedly opened fire on a group of UNP supporters (ibid. 5 Sept. 2000).

On 11 September 2000, at least two individuals purported to be People's Alliance (PA) supporters attacked a motorcade bearing UNP candidate Anura Bandaranaike (AFP 11 Sept. 2000; CNN 12 Sept. 2000). Four individuals were injured in the attack, which took place in the Colombo suburb of Ragama (ibid.). However, Bandaranaike was not among those hurt (ibid.; AFP 11 Sept. 2000).

On 21 September 2000, UNP candidate Keheliya Rambukwella's vehicle was set on fire by unidentified individuals in Madawala (The Sunday Times 24 Sept. 2000).

On 23 September 2000, the son of deputy defence minister Anuruddha Ratwatte allegedly took part in an attack on a car carrying UNP members in the region of Kandy (ibid.). According to the BBC, citing unidentified UNP sources, the vehicle's tires were shot at and punctured, and a UNP supporter was struck in the face with a rifle butt (BBC 24 Sept. 2000). Following the incident, a spokesperson for the European Union election monitoring mission expressed "serious concern about the apparent inaction of the police after the attack" (ibid.).

On 29 September 2000, an office in Kalutara belonging to a UNP candidate was reportedly set on fire by an "armed gang dressed in camouflage uniforms and carrying Uzi machine guns" (The Sunday Times 1 Oct. 2000).

Also on 29 September 2000, six houses belonging to UNP supporters were burned by unidentified individuals (Sri Lanka Monitor Sept. 2000). The incident reportedly took place in Polgodawatte, near Negombo (ibid.)

At approximately 8:00 a.m. on the day of the election, 10 October 2000, a UNP supporter was killed and four other individuals injured during a confrontation in Dambulla between UNP members and unidentified individuals travelling in vehicles bearing posters supporting PA candidate Janaka Bandara Tennakoon (The Sunday Leader 15 Oct. 2000c).

At roughly 10:30 a.m. on the day of the election, a UNP supporter was shot and killed in Anuradhapura by unidentified gunmen (ibid. 15 Oct. 2000b). At least two other individuals were injured in the attack (ibid.).

Also on election day, UNP supporter Sugath Leelaratne was killed and two others seriously injured in Kurunegala District when a bomb was thrown at them, allegedly by supporters of PA candidate Dharmasiri Dassanayake (ibid. 15 Oct. 2000c).

Election observers sent to Sri Lanka by the Asia Pacific Centre for Justice and Peace, an American non-governmental organization, stated that they had received reports on election day that "PA party 'enforcers'" had uttered threats against opposition party polling agents (Asia Pacific Advocate Winter 2000-2001). According to The Sunday Leader, a Colombo newspaper, UNP polling agents were chased away from a number of polling stations in Matale District (15 Oct. 2000b). The newspaper also indicated that polling agents from both the UNP and Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) were chased from polling stations in Hiriyala Electoral District, allegedly by supporters of the People's Alliance (ibid.).

Very little information on the women's wing of the UNP, known variously as the Eksath Lakvanitha Peramuna [United Women's Front] (ELP) (The Island 16 July 1999) or Eksath Lak Vanitha Peramuna (ELVP) (The Sunday Leader 8 Mar. 1998; Daily News 31 Mar. 2001), could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

However, reports published between March 1998 and March 2001 identify Renuka Herath as the head of the organization (The Sunday Leader 8 Mar. 1998; The Sunday Times 18 Oct. 1998; Daily News 31 Mar. 2001). In a 14 November 2001 Daily News report, Apsara Botheju was referred to as ELVP secretary.

The ELVP reportedly organized a program of events on 8 March 1998 to commemorate International Women's Day (The Sunday Leader 8 Mar. 1998, and was to stage a demonstration in Colombo on 21 October 1998 to "protest against the escalation of alleged PA-perpetrated violence against female politicians" (The Sunday Times 18 Oct. 1998). On 13 November 2001, ELVP leaders addressed a UNP function in Colombo where the party unveiled its women's manifesto (Daily News 14 Nov. 2001; The Island 14 Nov. 2001).

Additional information on the activities of the ELVP could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Agence France Presse (AFP). 11 September 2000. "Sri Lanka Opposition Rally Bombed; Four Wounded." (FBIS-NES-2000-0911 11 Sept. 2000/WNC)

Asia Pacific Advocate [Washington, DC]. Winter 2000-2001. "Reflections on Democracy, Elections and Sri Lanka." [Accessed 13 Nov. 2001]

Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL). 15 October 2000. "ANFREL Statement." [Accessed 13 Nov. 2001]

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). 24 September 2000. Alistair Lawson. "EU Concerned Over Sri Lanka Violence." [Accessed 13 Nov. 2001]

_____. 5 September 2000. "Two Die in Sri Lanka Poll Clash." [Accessed 13 Nov. 2001]

_____. 23 August 2000. "Pre-Poll Violence in Sri Lanka." [Accessed 13 Nov. 2001]

Cable News Network (CNN). 12 September 2000. "Four Opposition Supporters Wounded as Political Violence Escalates in Sri Lanka." [Accessed 13 Nov. 2001]

Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV). 14 October 2000. "Media Communiqué on Election-Related Violence General Elections 2000." [Accessed 13 Nov. 2001]

_____. 6 October 2000. "Media Communiqué on Election-Related Violence General Elections 2000." [Accessed 13 Nov. 2001]

Centre for Policy Alternatives. 2000. "Parliamentary Elections 2000 - Responses to Irregularities: Anomalies and Contradictions." [Accessed 13 Nov. 2001]

Daily News [Colombo]. 14 November 2001. Ananda Kannangara. "UNP Launches Program to Protect Women's Rights." [Accessed 13 Nov. 2001]

_____. 31 March 2001. "Disunity and Discord Within the Ranks of the UNP Came to a Climactic Boiling Point this Week." [Accessed 13 Nov. 2001]

The Island [Colombo]. 14 November 2001. "'Vanitha Dirimaga' to Protect, Improve Rights of Women." [Accessed 13 Nov. 2001]

_____. 16 July 1999. Saman Indrajith. "Hundreds of Women Take to the Streets." [Accessed 13 Nov. 2001]

Sri Lanka Monitor [London]. October 2000. "People's Alliance Returns to Government." [Accessed 13 Nov. 2001]

_____. September 2000. No. 152. "EU Monitors Deplore Election Violence." [Accessed 13 Nov. 2001]

The Sunday Leader [Colombo]. 15 October 2000a. "Verdict: Not Free and Fair." [Accessed 13 Nov. 2001]

_____. 15 October 2000b. "Murder, Intimidation, and Rigging." [Accessed 13 Nov. 2001]

_____. 15 October 2000c. Frederica Jansz. "Violence Amid Jawawewa for Jeyaraj." [Accessed 13 Nov. 2001]

_____. 8 March 1998. "Women's Day Programme." [Accessed 13 Nov. 2001]

The Sunday Times [Colombo]. 1 October 2000. "Who's Hitting the UNP?" [Accessed 13 Nov. 2001]

_____. 24 September 2000. Shane Seneviratne. "Gun Shots Mar Kandy Campaign." [Accessed 13 Nov. 2001]

_____. 10 September 2000. Chandani Kirinde and Dilrukshi Handunnetti. "Sabaragamuwa: 'We have Always Been Cheated.'" [Accessed 13 Nov. 2001]

_____. 18 October 1998. "UNP Women to Protest but won't Tell Where.'" [Accessed 13 Nov. 2001]

Additional Sources Consulted

IRB databases.


Unsuccessful attempts to contact the United National Party (UNP)

Internet sites including:

Amnesty International.

Centre for Women's Research (CENWOR)

Election Notes.

Human Rights Watch.

Sri Lanka Elections.


United National Party.

World News Connection.