08 January 2015
FIFTEEN million Sri Lankans today go to the polls to choose a president in an election that had appeared set up as a victory parade for Mahinda Rajapaksa, 69 and in his 10th year in the job.
Rajapaksa, who is credited with ending his country’s catastrophic 26-year civil war, had sought to capitalise on strong economic growth of 7 per cent a year, with official unemployment at just 4 per cent, when in November he called an election two years early.
But just six weeks ago, Maithripala Sirisena, who was Rajapaksa’s health minister and general secretary of his ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party, broke ranks and became a candidate.
This posed an immediate threat because Sirisena, a 63-year-old veteran parliamentarian with 25 years’ experience, took several other ministers with him among 21 MPs, and is set to win the support of a substantial minority of SLFP voters. He has also gained the backing of the major opposition group, the United National Party, as well as of the Tamil National Alliance.
…Rohan Gunaratna, professor of security studies at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, who comes from Sri Lanka, tells The Australian: “The Rajapaksa regime is credited for not only ending terrorism but for preventing a revival.
GPO / ICPVTR / Online
Last updated on 03/12/2015