“The vote is an indication that the campaign for democracy, reconciliation and demilitarisation has emerged victorious. But we have a tremendous challenge. I am compelled to say that the North has voted for change. It is our duty to deliver the freedom for the people. The women in the North who are tillers of the land want their rights. Their faces and tears once again reminded me of the difference between my reality and their life experiences. The massive difference of votes between the swan and the beetle leaf in the Tamil homeland has to be understood properly. Sinhala political leader who are going to lead this country towards changhe has been trusted by them to take them towards this new future. I hope and pray we will not let them down.
I salute the citizen’s of Sri Lanka for igniting their conscience after several years.”
It is that negative difference that has fuelled an electorate’s call for a political change, perhaps at great risk, still with the hope that a new administration may have the political maturity to tolerate dissent and celebrate a plural Sri Lankan identity.
“Neither of their manifestoes states anything about refugees living outside the country. My plight in the Trichy camp is no better than those at the Chettikulam camp in Lanka. How does it affect me if Mahinda or Sirisena wins?”
“The irony of the presidential election being fixed for the sixth anniversary of the day on which my husband and your ‘friend’, Lasantha Wickrematunge, was assassinated, may have escaped you. It has not escaped me.”
“Like most ethnic Tamils on this island nation, he cannot even imagine voting for the current president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, a man who solidified his power base by crushing a brutal Tamil insurgency and then largely ignored Tamil demands to heal the wounds of the decades-long civil war.”
In a measure of how far Thursday’s presidential election in Sri Lanka has become a knife-edge contest, diplomats here have been checking the rules in case of a dead heat: according to a 1981 act, the rival candidates would draw lots to settle on a winner.
Despite protests from Roman Catholic leaders, Pope Francis has remained committed to his planned three-day trip to Sri Lanka on Jan. 13. The visit takes place five days after the country’s election, and some fear the results could end in violence.
In the five years since Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government crushed a long-running separatist insurgency, he has worked methodically to cement his, and his family’s, control of the country’s politics.
“Most of the plantation youth, working in various parts of the country, are not allowed to exercise their voting rights at the upcoming Presidential Election, as their employers show reluctance to grant them leave.
Savumia Youth Foundation Chairman, S. P. Anthony Muthu told Ceylon Today that the same problem erupted during past Uva Provincial Council Elections, as many youths working in Colombo and in various other places, were not granted leave thus, they were unable to vote.
He said, more than 200,000 persons from the plantation sector are working in shops and hotels in Colombo, Dambulla, Matara, and in the North and East. They should be given a chance to cast their votes as it is a national election.
“Employers are reluctant to grant leave to these youths as they are unsure of them returning to work. They are suspicious that the youths might extend their leave up to Thai Pongal following the election,” he said.
Amidst a surge in election-related harassment and violence ahead of the 8 January presidential poll, Sri Lankan authorities must ensure that people’s right to political participation is respected, Amnesty International said.
New Yorker take on the election: “If a Presidential candidate refers to himself as a devil, chances are he’s in trouble. Last week, campaigning ahead of this Thursday’s election, Mahinda Rajapaksa, the incumbent Sri Lankan President, tried hard to endear himself to an audience in the northern city of Jaffna. The crowd consisted almost entirely of Tamils, the island’s largest minority, a community that regards him with suspicion and anger. ‘There is a saying that the devil you know is better than the unknown angel,’ Rajapaksa said. ‘I am the known devil, so please vote for me.’ These two sentences encapsulated the swift and intriguing fall of the once-mighty President.”
“Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapaksa may have expected to easily secure a third term in office.But now he faces a real and unprecedented challenge, after his former health minister, Mithripala Sirisena, decided to run against him in Thursday’s vote. Rajapaksa also stands accused of corruption, nepotism and human rights violations during his country’s long civil war. So, will Sri Lankans still give him a third term in office?” Al Jazeera reports.
Presenter: Sami Zeidan
CA Chandraprema – Political Correspondent for The Island newspaper.
Alan Keenen – Sri Lanka Project Director at the International Crisis Group.
Rajiva Wijesinha – Member of Parliament and former Head of the Peace Secretariat.