Campaign health violations: Three districts in great danger

The Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) has mapped out the Kurunegala, Nuwara Eliya, and Trincomalee Districts as having the greatest risk, should crowds be exposed to an asymptomatic person carrying the Covid-19 virus.

This is according to a Covid-19 Risk Map designed and published by the CMEV, given the non-adherence to health guidelines by candidates as well as their supporters along their campaign trails.

The report is based on a number of indicators devised by CMEV’s field observers, as of 16 July, to measure party and candidate compliance with the Covid-19 election guidelines.

The CMEV has recorded 64 health guideline violations, and its latest field visit report (as of 15 July) indicated that over 90% of the country’s districts are estimated to have more than a 60% health risk in election campaigning due to the non-compliance with Covid-19 health guidelines by parties and candidates.

In every electoral district that the CMEV visited, the commitment of candidates and organisers of most political parties to comply with the health guidelines was negligible. The establishment and daily functions of the campaign offices, meetings, and door-to-door campaigns were all observed to be operating with minimal precautions to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Our field teams reported that most of the party supporters who work in campaign offices were seen not even wearing facemasks,” CMEV National Co-ordinator Manjula Gajanayake told The Sunday Morning.

However, when CMEV field officers raised the issue with candidates and their main organisers, they had responded saying their meetings and canvassing would follow the necessary guidelines, while some mentioned that the guidelines had not even been communicated to them, Gajanayake noted.

All candidates had said that while they would attempt to follow the guidelines for meetings and canvassing, it was unlikely that the guidelines could be completely followed while on the campaign trail.

“We have given health instructions to be followed at public meetings to all candidates, but none of them (candidates) were seen following those instructions,” Public Health Inspector (PHI) D.M.S.B. Dalpatiya in Nuwara Eliya informed.

Monaragala Additional Health Officer Nilanka Jayawickrama had informed the CMEV that the majority of candidates were not complying with the health guidelines in their campaigns. “Candidates and their organisers do not inform PHIs about their campaign meetings. PHIs have also not received enough information and materials about the health guidelines from the Ministry of Health or elsewhere to keep party offices informed about those.”

Anuradhapura PHIs Nuwan Kulathunga and Ajith Kumara had revealed that they had not received any facilities to visit campaign offices and meeting locations, noting that only the National People’s Power (NPP) had submitted their campaign office list.

Another PHI, who wished to remain anonymous as he was attending to postal vote duties, said that as they do not have legal provisions to take action against violators of health guidelines for election campaigns, they had stopped issuing permits for campaign offices and meetings temporarily.