Friday, 13 December, 2019


Violence mars Sri Lankan presidential election as militants attack Muslim voters

Haneke Manoharan has launched a campaign to raise funds for recovery efforts following the Sri Lanka Easter bombings READ MORESix months on from the deadly Sri Lanka bombings this Australian survivor is giving back
Bennie Garza | 17 November, 2019, 08:12

Minority Tamils and Muslims are seen as crucial to deciding the victor in the close contest, in which nearly 16 million eligible will choose from a record 35 candidates.

"Comparatively this is the most peaceful presidential election we have had in this country", Deshapriya told reporters at the end of the 10-hour voting period.

Polls have opened in Sri Lanka's presidential election after weeks of campaigning that largely focused on national security and religious extremism in the backdrop of the deadly IS-inspired suicide bomb attacks on Easter Sunday.

Long queues of voters formed early in Colombo and elsewhere and six hours into the voting, almost 60 per cent had cast their votes, said Manjula Gajanayake, the national coordinator at Center for Monitoring Election Violence.

Some 85,000 police were on duty for the election with a record 35 candidates running for president, an office with considerable power similar to the French political system.

According to the latest update of the CMEV, Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) party of opposition candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa reportedly committed the majority of election violations, with 130 incidents, while ruling party candidate Sajith Premadasa's New Democratic Front had committed 45 election-related violations. But because of their heavy-handed rule during and after the war, some minorities fear their return.

Muslims from the coastal town of Puttalam were travelling to the neighbouring district of Mannar, where they were registered to vote, the police official said. But as the election approached, the race became very close.

Addressing the media at the Information Department yesterday, minutes after the close of polls, Deshapriya said they hope to release the final result by 6PM today, even if there is a runoff, so that there is enough time for the newly elected President to be sworn in on Monday.

Mr Gotabaya is accused of persecuting critics and overseeing what were called "white van squads" that whisked away journalists, activists and Tamil civilians suspected of links to the Tamil Tigers rebel group.

In the northern districts, the turnout was as large as the previous election held in 2015 when Tamils opted to vote for the incumbent Maithripala Sirisena, officials said.

Gotabhaya Rajapaksa also emerged victorious in the Uvaparanagama polling division in the Badulla District.

One of the two frontrunners is grey-haired retired army lieutenant colonel Gotabaya Rajapaksa, 70, nearly five years after his charismatic but controversial elder brother Mahinda Rajapaksa lost power after a decade as president.

Sha Nawaz, a 72-year-old retired state employee, said he and his wife cast their ballots for Premadasa.

China has been seeking to increase its influence in Sri Lanka because of the country's strategic location.

His main rival is Sajith Premadasa, 52, from the governing liberal United National Party (UNP), son of assassinated ex-president Ranasinghe Premadasa.

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