“Sri Lanka goes to the polls on Saturday for a presidential election that will be a decisive moment for its future. The country is still reeling from the Easter Sunday bombings of April 2019, in which more than 250 people died, as well as 18 months of political instability and infighting.”
“The election circus has come to town once more. This time, an election that should not have happened in the first place has been thrusted upon the people. In February this year, speaking at a meeting jointly organised by two Leftist parties in Jaffna, I said we should stop the Presidential Election of 2019 which was against the mandate given by the majority of the people in 2015 (this was one of the reforms over which there was an island-wide consensus in 2015).
I said stop, not boycott. Boycott is not an option for me as the country is continuing to pay the price of the LTTE’s call to the Tamils in the North and East to boycott the 2005 Presidential Election. I was a first-time voter in 2005 and had come to my hometown in Jaffna from the University of Peradeniya, where I was a first-year undergraduate, to cast my vote for Ranil Wickremesinghe as a way of showing my support to the peace talks that he had started with the LTTE. Like thousands of Northern Tamils, I did not cast my vote out of fear of the LTTE. What happened after the 2005 Presidential Election is now history.”
“The more visible euphoria that precedes the coming presidential election, is accompanied with a deeper, solemn realism that the country is unlikely to be better placed after a new president is in place. The most recent experience of the post-2015 presidential election, remains a hard lesson. Whoever the major political power blocks thrust into the highest seat, the promised golden era will continue to elude us.”
The 2019 presidential election, rather predictably is shaping up politically, very similar to its precedent in 2015. On that occasion, the then ruling Rajapakses’ sought an unprecedented third term and was rebuffed at the polls. In 2019, the Rajapakses’ are essentially seeking a third term, with the personalities changed. The message though from the Rajapakse camp has not changed, only increased in intensity. The message that the Sinhala people are under threat both from within and without and require an authoritarian saviour.
Opposing this narrative, rather late in the day and through through no fault of his own, is Sajith Premadasa, the charismatic relatively young deputy leader of the UNP, whose political task and challenge is to recreate the politics of 2015 in 2019, with himself as a new standard-bearer and with a fresh political vision and message.
As many as 35 candidates are running for President in Sri Lanka’s November 16 election, but northern Tamils view it as a two-cornered fight between Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Sajith Premadasa. And they know who they don’t want in power.
Defeated in 2015 by a coalition led by Maithripala Sirisena, who promised to reform the economy and break with Sri Lanka’s history of human rights abuses, nepotism and corruption, the Rajapaksas are set to fight this election on the populist staples of security, ethnicity and religion. It is a vote that could profoundly shape the direction of Sri Lanka’s politics, as the clan works to establish an immovable political dynasty, threatening to unwind more than four years of democratic progress.
“We are presently witnessing a whirlwind of activities in the lead up to Presidential Elections due on 16th November with an unprecedented number of candidates and election hype. It was in this midst that we marked the six months anniversary of the devastating Easter Sunday attacks which claimed over 250 lives, injured many more and resulted in cycles of ethno-religious violence. Two days after, the Parliament Select Committee (PSC) appointed to examine these attacks released its hard-hitting 272-page report. Having made initial comments on the findings of the PSC report on Twitter on the day of its release, this article builds on some key threads. It is further informed by a recent visit to the North and East of Sri Lanka where the ground realities speak to the complexities and challenges.”
Sri Lanka’s election commission has said it will censor the political coverage of a state-owned TV station after accusing it of bias against the former president’s brother, who is running in the country’s upcoming presidential election.
The unprecedented move came after the Independent Television Network (ITN) aired a programme alleging loyalists to the previous government had thwarted a corruption probe into the family of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Six months after they were violently forced out of their homes, there has been no police investigations into and no accountability for the threats and violence faced by refugees and asylum-seekers in Sri Lanka, Amnesty International and Minority Rights Group International said in a new report published today.
In a show of strength and solidarity, five Tamil parties in Sri Lanka recently came together and put down their expectations of presidential candidates seeking their support in the November 16 election.
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — The front-runner in Sri Lanka’s presidential campaign promised that he will rehabilitate and release all military personnel accused of abuses in the country’s civil war, according to a campaign manifesto released Friday.
A monk’s cremation on a temple’s premises, in violation of a court order, has triggered protests. The recent passing away of a Buddhist monk in Sri Lanka and his subsequent cremation in the northern district of Mullaitivu has brought to the fore an old concern — the power wielded by the Buddhist clergy and the impunity shielding them. It wasn’t the monk’s cremation that was the problem, it was the site.
On Monday, a group of saffron-robed men, led by controversial monk Gnanasara Thero (in picture) of the Bodu Bala Sena (Buddhist Power Force), gathered near the Neeravi Pillaiyar Kovil (temple) well in Mullaitivu, even as their supporters swiftly made arrangements for the cremation to be held there. They completed the final rites, defying a court order barring it on the temple’s premises. Around noon the same day, the Mullaitivu magistrate court had ruled that the cremation be held by the sea, near the Army camp facing the temple.
“When I returned from the court to the temple, I was shocked to see the monks going ahead with the cremation there, despite the court ruling against it. There were some 40 bhikkhus (monks) and maybe around 200 supporters with them,” said Kanagarathinam Sugash, attorney-at-law, who appeared for the temple administration in the case.
As the news spread, several locals — mostly Hindu Tamils — gathered around the temple in protest. “When I tried to draw the monks’ attention to the court order, one of them, speaking in broken Tamil, turned very aggressive towards me and told me — ‘This is a Sinhala Buddhist country and monks come first, they are above all’,” recalled Mr. Sugash, who was assaulted in the ensuing clash. The Jaffna-based lawyer found the monk’s remarks most telling. “He [the monk] was effectively telling me that monks are above the courts, above law and order.”
Since the end of its three-decade long civil war in 2009 and with the help of India, Sri Lanka has been upgrading the Jaffna peninsula’s Kankesanthurai harbour and the adjacent air field Palali, which played a crucial role for the Sri Lankan air force to air-drop relief supplies during the brutal conflict, when supply lines to Jaffna were often cut off by the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
In the wake of a heightening contest for presidential candidacy within the ruling United National Party (UNP), deputy leader and Minister Sajith Premadasa on Tuesday said the party must hold a “secret ballot” to choose the most-preferred contender.