25 January 2010

Violence Fears Rising in Sri Lanka

The Guardian reports that allegations are spreading that the ruling party in Sri Lanka "is planning to stir up violence in a desperate attempt to cling to power." The paper reports:

"The increasingly bitter election campaign came to an end this weekend with final rallies for the two main candidates, President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Sarath Fonseka, the former head of the army.

"The two men are widely seen as the chief architects of last year's victory over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). But since putting an end to one of the world's longest running insurgencies they have turned on each other in an escalating round of accusations and insults.

"On Saturday Fonseka warned of vote-rigging and suggested that the army might stage a coup if Rajapaksa loses. "The violence will reduce voter attendance, then the rigging will take place," he said.

"A government spokesman, Keheliya Rambukwella, denied the opposition's allegation. "They know that there is an imminent defeat and this is their usual excuse to cover up a humiliating defeat," he told the Associated Press.

"The run-up to the vote has already been marred by violence. Police say at least four people have been killed and hundreds wounded in clashes between the factions and on Friday the house of an influential opposition figure was bombed.

"Fonseka, who decided to challenge Rajapaksa after complaining of being sidelined, has dismissed the president as a "cardboard king". Rajapaksa's supporters, meanwhile, have portrayed Fonseka as a dictator in the making, comparing him to Idi Amin, the brutal Ugandan military leader. Amid the name-calling, there lurks the real fear that violence will escalate if the result is disputed."

Amid all of this, many Tamils hope that they can utilize the election, whatever the results, to increase their political clout going forward.

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