Sri Lankans voted yesterday in parliamentary polls expected to deliver a comfortable win for Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse’s ruling party and consolidate his grip on power.
With the opposition divided and his main political rival behind bars, Rajapakse had urged voters to give his party a two-thirds majority, allowing him to amend the constitution that currently limits the president to two terms.
For many Sri Lankans, it was the first legislative election in which they could vote without fear of Tamil Tiger violence and suicide attacks after the rebels were defeated last year, ending three decades of conflict.
Independent poll monitors reported 160 incidents of poll-related violence during the first four hours of balloting, but most were minor in nature and there were no reports of any casualties or injuries.
Rajapakse called the polls two months early after his resounding re-election victory in a presidential vote in January, which was closely followed by the arrest of the defeated opposition candidate — former army chief Sarath Fonseka.
“I want a very strong parliament to develop the country,” the president told reporters as he cast his ballot in a southern constituency where his son Namal was the ruling party candidate.
While Rajapakse’s United People’s Freedom Alliance should have no trouble securing more than half the 225 seats in parliament, Sri Lanka’s system of proportional representation makes a two-thirds majority unlikely.
Rajapakse’s nationalistic rhetoric appeals to his majority Sinhalese community, but has been criticized by rights groups who accuse him of cronyism and suppressing dissent.
As well as his son, the president’s two brothers were also on the ballot list yesterday, as was Fonseka despite the fact that he is in military custody and undergoing court martial.
Opposition parties were largely united behind Fonseka in his campaign for the presidency, but they lost cohesion after his arrest and came into the parliamentary election with little hope of victory.
Early turnout was low and some felt that casting a ballot was a waste of time.
“People feel the results are already out, so why vote? I’m not voting,” said pottery seller G. Priyantha, 36, as he arranged his clay pots outside a temple in Colombo.
Sethmini Chathurika, 28, said she had voted for Rajapakse’s party because it had succeeded in ending the conflict with the Tamil Tigers.
“The president has plans to build the country. I think he deserves a parliament to implement those plans,” Chathurika said.
Despite the defeat of the Tigers, security was tight yesterday, with 20,000 troops on duty to reinforce police at polling stations around the country.
The Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) reported a shoot-out between a group of opposition and government supporters in the island’s south early yesterday, but nobody was hurt.
Henry Tong (湯偉雄) and Elaine To (杜依蘭) were preparing to spend their first wedding anniversary in separate prison cells until their acquittal for rioting during Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests. There were gasps and tears of relief in court on Friday last week as a judge declared prosecutors had failed to prove that the couple took part in clashes with police in July last year. The pair walked free in a ruling that has potential consequences for hundreds of other protesters facing similar charges. However, they have a long journey ahead as they try to rebuild their lives and business. “We have already been punished,”
WARNINGS OVER COMPLACENCY: The curves of new infections in numerous countries is climbing, while others see the the first new infections in months Spikes in COVID-19 infections in Asia have dispelled any notion that the region might be over the worst, with Australia and India yesterday reporting record daily infections, Vietnam fretting over a new surge and North Korea urging vigilance. Asian nations had largely prided themselves on rapidly containing initial outbreaks after the coronavirus emerged in central China late last year, but flare-ups this month have shown the danger of complacency. “We’ve got to be careful not to slip into some idea that there’s some golden immunity that Australia has in relation to this virus,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters. Australia recorded its
‘COVIDIOTS’: Politicians condemned the protest that came amid surging infections in the country, while a marcher said government-induced fear weakened the body Loudly chanting their opposition to masks and vaccines, thousands of people on Saturday gathered in Berlin to protest against COVID-19 restrictions before being dispersed by police. Police put turnout at about 20,000 — well below the 500,000 organizers had announced as they urged a “day of freedom” from months of virus curbs. Despite Germany’s comparatively low toll, authorities are concerned at a rise in infections over the past few weeks and politicians took to social media to criticize the rally as irresponsible. “We are the second wave,” shouted the crowd, a mixture of hard left and right and conspiracy theorists, as they converged
The Australian government yesterday said that it plans to give Google and Facebook three months to negotiate with media businesses fair pay for news content. In releasing a draft of a mandatory code of conduct, Canberra aims to succeed where other nations have failed in making tech firms pay for news siphoned from commercial media companies. Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said that Google and Facebook would be the first platforms targeted by the proposed legislation, but others could follow. “It’s about a fair go for Australian news media businesses, it’s about ensuring that we have increased competition, increased consumer protection and a sustainable