Police and politicians joined anti-Muslim riots that rocked Sri Lanka’s Kandy district this month, according to witnesses, officials and CCTV footage reviewed by Reuters.
…The role of police and some local Buddhist politicians in the Islamophobia rampage points to the depth of the problem that Muslims face in Sri Lanka. It also shows that the government has no control over some of its police and security personnel, and that the violence was more than a spontaneous outbreak fueled by fringe Buddhist fighters and hate-speech spread on social media.
…Sri Lanka’s Law and Order Minister Ranjith Madduma Bandara has said the violence in Kandy was « well organised » and pointed the finger at members of Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), a political party backed by Rajapaksa that scored a huge victory in local elections last month.
“It is very difficult to keep Rajapaksa out, I would think,” said Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, who runs an election monitoring group and a policy research organization in Sri Lanka. On the other hand, he noted, every recent poll shows Mr. Rajapaksa trailing, and there is “no demonstrable evidence of any kind of swing or shift to him.”
« A half year after Maithripala Sirisena’s stunning defeat of President Mahinda Rajapaksa raised hopes for democratic renaissance, the complexities of partisan politics, and Rajapaksa himself, have returned to centre stage. Sirisena’s initial months with a minority government led by the United National Party (UNP) have opened important political space: robust debate and criticism have replaced the fear under Rajapaksa, and important governance reforms have been made, but much remains undone. By initial steps on reconciliation, the government set a more accommodating tone on the legacy of the civil war and the ethnic conflict that drove it. But divisions within government and Sirisena’s failure to take control of his Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) prevented deeper reform and allowed Rajapaksa and his supporters to mount a comeback. With Sirisena opposing Rajapaksa’s return, the 17 August parliamentary elections will test the continued appeal of the ex-president’s hardline Sinhala nationalism and give a chance for the fresh start that lasting solutions to the country’s social divisions require. »
Former President Chandrika Kumaratunga yesterday cast her lot against her party’s candidate and presidential successor Mahinda Rajapaksa, indirectly urging Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) supporters to vote against him at the 17 August election.
« It’s potentially very explosive – it might go right to the top, » said analyst Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, who runs a policy think tank and election monitoring group. »
Rajapaksa, still driven by a delusional mindset, demonstrates the same obtuseness in his dismissal of minority aspirations and grievances though, in a belated acknowledgement of a miscalculation which cost him the Presidency, he has offered, in his recent Anuradhapura speech, platitudes approximating to the need for ethnic reconciliation. Coming from a man whose platform has always been Sinhala / Buddhist hegemony , such rhetoric will be recognized for its insincerity and be dismissed with deserved contempt.
The phrase ‘regime-change’ is often used to describe the dramatic result of the presidential election on 8th January 2015, both in the sense of a democratic change of government, as well as at a deeper level, to denote the electorate’s expression of a choice between two competing conceptions of the Sri Lankan state. The country rejected the Rajapaksa model and endorsed the common opposition’s promise of a radically different vision of Sri Lanka. With the main part of the common opposition’s promised reforms enacted in the form of the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution in April, the electorate will be asked to endorse those changes and the promise of more, or to reject both, in the parliamentary elections in two weeks’ time.
Sri Lanka’s former president Mahinda Rajapaksa has vowed to win an outright majority in parliamentary elections due on 17 August.
Mr Rajapaksa told BBC Sinhala he was confident of winning more than half the seats in parliament.
He is hoping to become prime minister, but the result is far from clear-cut.
A Rajapaksa win would mean an uneasy cohabitation with party rival Maithripala Sirisena, who beat him in presidential elections in January.
Their Sri Lanka Freedom Party remains divided over the two men – the president failed to stop his predecessor from standing as a party candidate in the polls.
Sri Lanka’s main opposition party Tuesday scrapped a longstanding promise to give greater autonomy to minority Tamils, as it tries to win over hardline sections of the Sinhalese majority before a general election.
In its manifesto launched in Colombo, former strongman Mahinda Rajapakse’s United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) said it would refuse to grant more powers to a local council in the Tamils’ northern heartland if it won the August 17 election
For the ex-president, the election battle “is a fight for political survival,” said Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, executive director of the Centre for Policy Alternatives in Colombo. “Rajapaksa Inc., the dynastic project, can’t stay out of power too long or it risks destruction.”
The positive achievements of the regime change are quite significant, but paradoxically they remain mostly invisible and intangible. Key among them include making the state less and less repressive, removing the use of fear, terror, intimidation and corruption as instruments of governance, turning the regime behaviour moderate and less leader-centric, dismantling the political culture of the personality cult, demilitarisation of politics and public space, the re-opening of the space for critique and dissent, and the removal of the fear among ethnic and religious minorities of organised violence. These indeed are no mean achievements gained within a space of days and weeks of the regime change. All these are negative achievements in the sense that they are outcome of the government refraining from doing certain things. But they constituted a fundamental alteration of the pattern of regime behaviour evolved during the past so many years.
« Former President, Mahinda Rajapaksa, spent more than Rs. 785 million within three years to charter SriLankan Airlines aircraft for his visits abroad, documents obtained by the Sunday Times show. The airbuses would often remain idle in various airports until Mr Rajapaksa finished his tours. SriLankan has billed his office a total of Rs 785,079,185 for 90 aircraft movements in 2012, 2013 and 2014. This figure does not reflect other multiple costs such as crew accommodation. These expenses were often met by Sri Lanka’s diplomatic missions abroad. »
Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena on Tuesday criticized a comeback bid by Mahinda Rajapaksa, the rival he beat in elections last January, and his own allies for backing him to become prime minister.