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

African States Push to Keep Boko Haram Offline

Central African telecoms ministers working with Nigeria to block all videos posted by Boko Haram in effort to blunt Nigerian militant group's propaganda More

Falling Oil Prices, Internet-Savvy Youth Pose Challenge for Gulf Monarchies

Across the Gulf, younger generations are putting a strain on traditional politics More

Philippines Call Center Workers Face Challenges

Country has world’s largest business process outsourcing, or BPO, industry, employing some one-million workers 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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More