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

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Analysis: Occupy Central Not Exactly Hong Kong’s Tiananmen

VOA's former Hong Kong, Beijing correspondent compares and contrasts 1989 Tiananmen Square protest with what is now happening in Hong Kong More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital 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.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid