Lanka ex-president warns of election ‘skulduggery’
December 16 2014 09:34 PM
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Chandrika Kumaratunga addressing a press conference at her home in Colombo yesterday.
Chandrika Kumaratunga addressing a press conference at her home in Colombo yesterday.

Sri Lanka’s former president warned yesterday that her successor may resort to “skulduggery” to secure an unprecedented third term, calling for outside observers to monitor the forthcoming election.

Chandrika Kumaratunga, who re-entered politics last month to support the main opposition presidential candidate, said she believed the government would seek to intimidate rivals at the January 8 elections.

“On polling day, they (the government) will resort to skulduggery,” Kumaratunga told reporters at her home in Colombo. “It happened in
previous elections too.”

President Mahinda Rajapakse, 69, called the January 8 election two years ahead of schedule after his party’s popularity showed a 21 percentage point decline at local elections in September.

Kumaratunga, who is also 69, is the patron of Rajapakse’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), but the two are embroiled in a personality feud and have
become bitter foes.

The former president returned to active politics last month to openly challenge Rajapakse’s unprecedented bid for a third term after rewriting the constitution to remove the term limits on the presidency.

Kumaratunga said she hoped foreign governments would send election monitors to encourage a free and fair election.

“The only thing the foreign governments can do is to send more and more monitors to observe the election,”
Kumaratunga said.

“Perhaps, they can also talk to the government about free and fair elections. But it will be falling on deaf ears.”

Rajapakse is facing a surprise challenge from his former health minister Maithripala Sirisena, who has mustered support from all the main opposition political parties as well as Kumaratunga’s endorsement.

Private local election monitors say there have already been scores of violent clashes between rival groups since elections were called last month. Half a dozen people have been injured in shooting incidents.

Sri Lanka’s election authorities warned state-run television networks last week not to flout election laws by broadcasting programmes openly supporting the president’s candidacy.

Local election monitors have also warned of massive abuse of state vehicles and personnel for Rajapakse’s campaign.

The opposition has said it is collecting evidence of public officials engaging in election propaganda for the ruling party and plans to take court action.

Over 100 foreign observers for Lanka poll: Sri Lanka will invite 104 international observers to be part of the presidential elections scheduled for January 8, electoral authorities reported.

The electoral department will invite 35 personalities, while the non-government organisation – People for Action for Free and Fair Elections will invite 69.

The experts, who will start arriving on December 27 to monitor the campaign and the voting, come from the Forum of South Asian Electoral Observation and the British Commonwealth of Nations (Sri Lanka is one of its 54 members and
current president).

There are also a small number of observers from the European Association of Election
Monitoring.

A few days ago, the head of the electoral commission, Mahinda Deshapriya, clarified that the monitoring of the elections will not be a call from the United Nations as it only happens when there are serious doubts about the normality of the process.

The previous Sri Lankan elections took place in 2010 and passed peacefully and in an organised scenario although only a year before ended a war of more than 25 years against the separatist movement Liberation Tigers of Eelam Tamil.

At that time President Mahinda Rajapakse was re-elected with 57.88% of the vote. In January, the president will compete for a third term.

 

 

 

 

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