News / Asia

Sri Lanka Tense on Eve of Presidential Election

Army soldiers appear to have set up a makeshift camp in race course grandstands near office of ex-Gen. Fonseka
Army soldiers appear to have set up a makeshift camp in race course grandstands near office of ex-Gen. Fonseka

Multimedia

Audio

Sri Lanka's government and the political opposition are trading accusations their respective rivals are preparing to use force to overturn the results of Tuesday's presidential election.  Independent monitors, meanwhile, contend, the electoral process has broken down. 

Sri Lanka Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama is warning that up to 800 army deserters, most allied with former general and opposition candidate Sarath Fonseka, are poised to disrupt the presidential election.

"Unscrupulous elements can exploit this situation, cause violence in a manner that is alien to our traditions of tolerance and unknown in Sri Lanka before the conflict situation erupted," he said.

Bogollagama said 25 army battalions and 68,000 police officers have been deployed to ensure a violence-free election.

Former General Sarath Fonseka at election eve news conference, 25 Jan. 2010
Former General Sarath Fonseka at election eve news conference, 25 Jan. 2010

Former General Fonseka, hoping to unseat President Mahinda Rajapaksa, says five battalions posted in the capital - including two composed of special forces soldiers,  some just 100 meters from his campaign office - are an ominous sign that he and other opposition leaders could be targeted him as part of a "military coup" should he prevail at the ballot box.

"They want to bring the war to Colombo?  Of course, we will face it," he said.

VOA observed hundreds of soldiers who have appeared to set up a makeshift camp in the grandstands of a race course just down the street from the Fonseka headquarters. 

Poster in Colombo appealing for a peaceful election day
Poster in Colombo appealing for a peaceful election day

Western diplomats say they are concerned about the potential for violence by supporters of the two rivals after election results are announced Wednesday.

Mr. Fonseka alleges the government is continuing to sling mud against him on the state-controlled airwaves even after official campaigning was supposed to have ended.

"The democratic process and the Constitution and the law of the country is totally being ignored by the government and the head of the government," he said.

Independent domestic monitors are lending credence to charges of manipulation of postal ballots, the military intervening in the political campaign and misuse of state resources, including the media, in favor of the president.

Pakiasothy Saravanamuttu speaking at news conference of Center for Monitoring Election Violence
Pakiasothy Saravanamuttu speaking at news conference of Center for Monitoring Election Violence

Pakiasothy Saravanamuttu of the Center for Policy Alternatives said the election's integrity has already been seriously challenged. 

"With deep regret we have to say that when you look at it in terms of what public officials have said, what they have done, the violence and malpractice recorded we have a picture of dysfunction and breakdown," he said.   

Although there are only 20 international observers in the country for the election, more than 3,700 Sri Lankan monitors are to be at the polling centers.  The country has about 14 million eligible voters.

All indications are the two Sinhalese men, regarded by their respective camps as the true heroes of last year's defeat of the Tamil Tiger rebels, are locked in a tight battle.  Both sides have told VOA News their polling shows their candidate in the lead. 
 


Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

You May Like

Video Video Claims to Show Shi'ite Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

While not yet independently confirmed, brutal killing already has gotten attention of Islamic State followers on social media More

After Six Years, Little Change for Niger Delta's Former Militants

Nigerians who laid down arms in exchange for government amnesty subsidies fear program may end with upcoming presidential elections More

Vietnam Pushes for More Educated Drivers to Curb Road Deaths

Transportation officials hope that making a greater effort to get drivers to learn the rules of the road will reduce fatal crashes 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.
Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boyi
X
Jeff Seldin
March 05, 2015 2:36 AM
A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Volunteer Gauge-Watchers Help Fine-Tune Weather Science

An observation system called CoCoRaHS is working to improve weather science, thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country who measure precipitation in their own backyards, then share their data through the Internet. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video African Americans Recall 1960's Fight For Voting Rights

U.S. President Barack Obama and thousands of people will gather in the small southern U.S. city of Selma, Alabama, Saturday, March 7th to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic voting rights march that became known as “Bloody Sunday." VOA’s Chris Simkins traveled to Alabama and introduces us to some of the foot soldiers of the voting rights struggles of the 1960’s.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

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