COLOMBO: Voting was underway on Saturday in the Sri Lankan Local Government (LG) elections, seen as an unofficial referendum on the performance of the unity Government so far.
It was the first election to be held since the current Sri Lankan Government came to power in 2015 is being held under tight security.
The coalition Government led by President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has been accused by some sections of society and the opposition of failing to fully meet public expectations.
Sirisena’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party and Wickremesinghe’s United National Party are contesting the elections separately with the main challenge coming from the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna led by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
The Local Government elections will be held from 700 am to 400 pm (Sri Lanka Standard Time) on Saturday to elect 8,325 candidates for 340 Local Government bodies.
The counting of votes and postal votes will commence after the conclusion of voting.
The Government said that the services of 65,758 Police officers, 41,178 Special Task Force (STF) officers and 7,278 other officers will be utilised.
Police Spokesman, Superintendent of Police Ruwan Gunasekara said that the officers have been deployed throughout the island, for election-related duties and to maintain law and order while the election is taking place and in the immediate aftermath of the polls.
He noted that 26,840 officers have been deployed to the 13,420 election centres. Every centre will have two armed Police officers.
Furthermore, 3,225 mobile Police units with 13,552 officers have been deployed island-wide for monitoring purposes. The Government also said that 99 STF mobile units will be located in selected areas as well while 175 riot Police teams will also be deployed during this period.
Police said that these security measures had been taken following a request made to this effect by the Election Commission.
Army Spokesman Brigadier Sumith Atapattu said that around 850 soldiers have been deployed to 155 selected areas while the additional battalions will also be kept in a state of readiness to meet any emergency situation.