News / Asia

Sri Lanka to Choose New President Tuesday

Rajapaksa supporters with anti-Fonseka placards at rally, 24 Jan 2010
Rajapaksa supporters with anti-Fonseka placards at rally, 24 Jan 2010

Multimedia

Audio

In Sri Lanka, The two proclaimed heroes of Sri Lanka's recently-ended civil war are facing off in the country's presidential election Tuesday. Both openly accuse the other of war crimes.   The election is being closely watched by international agencies and donor governments.

During his final election rally President Mahinda Rajapaksa sat with key political allies and Buddhist monks on a stage replicating an ancient royal palace.

President Rajapaksa, behind bulletproof glass, addressing supporters, 24 Jan 2010
President Rajapaksa, behind bulletproof glass, addressing supporters, 24 Jan 2010

Singers praised Mr. Rajapaksa as both a man of the people and a modern day king who vanquished the rebel Tamil Tigers, ending a quarter century of civil war.

The former general to whom others give credit for the military victory, Sarath Fonseka, is the main contender vying to unseat the incumbent. He leads a diverse opposition coalition with seemingly incompatible views on crucial issues. The close contest has gone beyond just nasty political rhetoric alleging war crimes, corruption and incompetence.

Analyst Pakiasothy Saravanamuttu of the Center for Policy Alternatives says the campaign has seen hundreds of serious acts of violence, including several killings.

"So what it does suggest is that there is a violence embedded in the political culture of the country and that it is a zero-sum political culture. And, therefore, literally, not just metaphorically, parties go to war with each other in an electoral contest," he said.

Sri Lanka political analyst Pakiasothy Saravanamuttu, 24 Jan 2010
Sri Lanka political analyst Pakiasothy Saravanamuttu, 24 Jan 2010

Pakiasothy says a big election day concern is how extensive balloting in Tamil-dominated districts will be disrupted.

"The issue here is going to be whether there will be violence and intimidatory activity which will prevent people from getting to polling stations," he said.

General Fonseka predicts desperate supporters of President Rajapaksa will do exactly that.

"They'll come on the road on election day. There will be a lot of violence to intimidate the people, to turn the voters back because there's no other way out for them. They already lost the election," he said.

Despite the threats, retired Supreme Court Justice C.V. Wigneswaran tells VOA News he has been urging his fellow Tamils to replace the legacy of Tamil rebel bullets with ballots.

"Despite all these heavy odds against them, of various groups trying to prevent them [from voting] or even Army collaboration in these matters, they must come forward and go to vote," he said.

The former judge says he spurned offers to run for President as a Tamil candidate, saying it is obvious only a Sinhalese can win. He says the former general who waged war on the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam is the preferred choice at the ballot box for Sri Lanka's minorities.

Former General Sareth Fonseka, opposition coalition presidential candidate, 24 Jan 2009
Former General Sareth Fonseka, opposition coalition presidential candidate, 24 Jan 2009

Fonseka enjoys support of many of the members of Parliament from the Tamil National Alliance, the political wing of the defeated rebels.

In his last speech to supporters before campaigning drew to a close, President Rajapaksa reached out to the hundreds of thousands of Tamils displaced by the blood-filled chaos of the civil war's final months last year.

The President says he will win the hearts of the Tamils in the North and the East and make certain terrorism does not resurface.

Both Mr. Rajapaksa and his former top general express confidence they will be victorious.

For the challenger, it has been a difficult task to get out his message to the masses.

The international organization Reporters Without Borders says state media, during the campaign, allocated more than 98 percent of its news and current affairs air time to the president. The group says those figures put Sri Lanka in the same league as the regimes in Burma or North Korea.

You May Like

China May Be Biggest Winner From Ukraine Crisis

Missile sales, oil and gas shipments are among many areas that may drive Beijing and Moscow closer together in coming years More

Obama Faces Chaotic World, Limits of Power

Current foreign policy issues bring into focus challenges for US policymakers who are mindful of Americans' waning appetite for overseas military engagements More

SADC Meeting Lesotho Officials to Resolve Stalemate

Official says regional bloc has been engaged with leaders in Lesotho to resolve political disagreement that led to coup attempt More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid