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

China’s Influence Grows With New Infrastructure Bank

Multibillion-dollar China-backed and BRICS-supported Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank seen as possible challenger to such lenders as IMF, World Bank More

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

Rabbi Michel Serfaty makes the rounds in his friendship bus to encourage dialogue and break down barriers between the two groups More

Post-deal Iran Leaders Need 'Economic Momentum' to Solidify Power Base

Economists say deal could inject more than $100 billion into coffers - not enough to entirely rescue ailing economy - but maybe adequate to create 'economic momentum' 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 Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impacti
X
Michael Bowman
June 28, 2015 10:05 PM
Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impact

Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Syrian Refugees Return to Tal Abyad

Syrian refugees in Turkey confirm they left their hometown of Tal Abyad because of intense fighting and coalition airstrikes, not because Kurdish fighters were engaged in ethnic cleansing, as some Turkish officials charged. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer, in Tal Abyad, finds that civilians coming back to the town agree, as we hear in this report narrated by Roger Wilkison.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Chemical-Sniffing Technology Fights Australia's Graffiti Vandals

Cities and towns all over the world spend huge amounts of resources battling graffiti writers who deface buildings, public transport vehicles and even monuments. Authorities in Sydney, Australia, hope a new chemical-sniffing technology finally will stop vandals from scribbling on walls in the passenger areas of commuter trains. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Cambodia Struggling to Curb Child Labor

Earlier this year a United Nations report found 10 percent of Cambodian children aged 7-14 are working – one of the highest rates in the region – and said one in four children in that age bracket are forced to quit school to help their families. Although the child labor rate has dropped over the past decade, Cambodia has a lot more to do – including keeping more children in school. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.

VOA Blogs