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, Steven L Herman is the Voice of America Asia correspondent.

You May Like

Hezbollah Chief Says Does Not Want War But Ready for One

VOA's Jerusalem correspondent reports that with an Israeli election looming and Hezbollah's involvement in Syria, neither side appears interested in a wider conflict More

Multimedia VOA SPECIAL REPORT: Despite Danger, Best US Minds Battle Deadly Virus

Scientists at America's premier biological research center race in military confinement to find effective drugs, speedier tests and a safe vaccine amid the deadliest outbreak of Ebola in history More

Kurdish Poet Battles to Defend Language, Culture

Kawa Nemir's work is an example of what he sees as an irreversible cultural and political assertiveness among Kurds in Turkey 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.
Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unresti
X
Heather Murdock
January 30, 2015 8:00 PM
Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Mobile Infrared Scanners May Help Homeowners Save Energy

Mobile photo scanners have been successfully employed for navigational purposes, such as Google Maps. Now, a group of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says the same technology could help homeowners better insulate their houses and save some money. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

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

All About America

AppleAndroid