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Thread: Sri Lanka's close election

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    Senior Contributor Bigfella's Avatar
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    Sri Lanka's close election

    When the war in Sri Lanka came to an end there seemed the possibility that the nation might have an opportunity at a freedom & prosperity it had never known. The destruction of the LTTE was a necessary step to a better Sri Lankan future. Unfortunately it was done in an unnecessarily brutal manner - footage of a pile of female corpses, each with breasts & genitals exposed evidenced the way some elements of the Army behaved in victory. Worse, the 'reconstruction' has seen Sri Lanka turned into a quasi-dictatorship at the hands of the Rajapaksa clan. This election is an opportunity that may not come again for some time. The political forces arrayed against the Rajapaksas are significant. I am still not confident that it will be free or fair. I am confident that there will be violence no matter what the result. A Rajapaksa victory will see some lethal 'payback', a loss could unleash all manner of civil unrest & even a military intervention.

    Hopefully Sri Lanka will decide to walk a different path from the one it is on now. The further it heads doe=wn the path of dictatorship the harder it will be to get off it.


    As put by H.L. Seneviratne, a Sri Lankan professor of anthropology in the United States: "They have defined this victory as a license to eat, drink and be merry, amass wealth by means foul or fair, tax the poor, sell national assets, commit any illegality with impunity, and in general, do as they please in anything and everything, with no one allowed to ask any questions."

    .....

    Does Rajapaksa need to worry about his critics? Until recently, he did not. He held control over the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), appealing to the 70 per cent Sinhala majority spread across rural villages. Add to this a clutch of parties supported by significant minorities, the more chauvinistic Buddhists among the Sinhala, Muslims, and even the surviving representative of the Tamils in mainstream politics, the Tamil National Alliance.

    Chinese money allowed lavish spending on the island-republic's dilapidated roads, connecting villages to markets. Critics among the urban elite were bundled away in white vans, either disappearing or persuaded to adopt silence or foreign exile, while compliant police and a neutered judiciary looked the other way.

    After a sharp fall in his party's vote in local elections last September, Rajapaksa must have worried that the victory magic was wearing off, however, and called an election two years early. This week's vote would be the first exercise of his removal in 2010 of a constitutional limit of two presidential terms.

    Things have suddenly turned worse. His previously docile health minister and SLFP secretary-general, Maithripala Sirisena, resigned from the government and declared his own candidacy. Rajapaksa called him a "Judas": the two men had shared a dish of "hoppers" (rice-flour pancakes) just the night before.

    Sirisena declared he would return Sri Lanka's political system to its constitutional past if elected, ending the executive presidency adopted in the 1980s and restoring the parliamentary system left by the British in 1948. He's also promised to fight systemic corruption.

    He was joined by opposition leader Ranil Wickremasinghe, a former prime minister and finance minister, who leads the United National Party which is also largely Sinhala-based but appealing to a usually narrower bank of urban and business voters. The minority parties representing Tamils, Buddhists and Muslims also exited the government ranks to support Sirisena.

    Significantly, former president Chandrika Kumaratunga, whose Bandaranaike family provided the SLFP's first post-independence prime ministers, has also split from Rajapaksa.

    The election has got quite dirty. Bombs have gone off at Sirisena's rallies, stones have been hurled into crowds. Rajapaksa's campaigners have ignored red flags put up by the election commission. Their publicity, including giant roadside "cut-outs", is everywhere. Officials and recalled diplomats have been deployed to campaign blatantly for the government.

    The crudity of government campaigning has been epitomised by one minister's statement on television that Kumaratunga would be stripped naked and chased through the streets once Rajapaksa won. Another minister has warned that government members have already enriched themselves and electing a new regime would only invite another round of plunder.

    A deep concern is that the Sri Lankan Army, still 200,000-strong five years after the enemy disappeared and cleared for domestic security duties in 2013, will be deployed to block Tamil and Muslim voters from getting to the polls. The defence minister is Rajapaksa's brother Gotabaya, one of a clutch of close relatives occupying key positions.

    In the worsening atmosphere, the United Nations secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, and the European Union's envoys in Colombo have put out statements in the last week calling for a free and fair vote. Canberra has been silent, and regrettably the election has got scant coverage in the Australian media.

    Depending on the turnout of the minorities, Rajapaksa's hope of a victory swings on achieving a large margin among the Sinhala.

    He still has a lot going for him: development largesse, support particularly among women for ending the war that had been taking away their sons, the reach of a slavish state television network into the countryside, and a rustic appeal as "one of them" from a small southern town, despite education as a lawyer and hereditary succession into politics.

    But Sirisena might outflank him on the rural front. A Sinhala who speaks little English despite attending one of the elite's top two private schools modelled on Eton and Harrow, he worked in agriculture and cooperatives in his northern farming region and was detained in 1971 for alleged leanings towards the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna, a millenarian communist movement that has popped up twice among Sinhala rural youth in the last half-century.

    His previous role as SLFP's secretary-general gives him a network of support among local branches that, with the addition of Kumaratunga's dynastic appeal, could draw SLFP voters away from Rajapaksa.

    The question is whether Sirisena's message about corruption, nepotism, licentiousness and constitutional balances will resonate in the villages as much as it does among urban elites. Another is whether Rajapaksa and his brothers think they can afford to lose.

    Sri Lanka votes: President Mahinda Rajapaksa fights for his political life


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    Quote Originally Posted by Bigfella View Post
    Worse, the 'reconstruction' has seen Sri Lanka turned into a quasi-dictatorship at the hands of the Rajapaksa clan.
    Does sri lanka have a better history of political leadership? Something to strive for.

    Also, is there a particular reason for Chinese investment or are they seeing this as a good investment opportunity? and does anyone internationally hold significant influence over Sri Lanka?

    I am surprised to read of the apparent inclusion of a tamil political party. The war having finished in such a devastating fashion and the international claims of significant crimes against humanity that I would have thought the situation on the ground would have remained poisonous.

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    Senior Contributor anil's Avatar
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    Sirisena won, Rajapaksa lost

    IMO, the inception of partition happened long ago.

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    Senior Contributor Bigfella's Avatar
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    Woo Hoo!!! Lets hope the army stays at home, the bureaucracy does its job & the new government isn't sabotaged (literally) by the outgoing government.

    The trick now is going to be keeping the governing coalition together.

    Official results showed Maithripala Sirisena, a former ally of the incumbent, had won 51.3% of the vote.

    Mr Rajapaksa, in office since 2005, said on Twitter he looked forward to a peaceful transition of power.

    His supporters credit him with ending the civil war and boosting the economy, but critics say he had become increasingly authoritarian and corrupt.

    Mr Sirisena had already received promises of support from Tamil and Muslim leaders before the election.

    But the result shows he also picked up a significant portion of the majority Sinhalese vote, most of whom solidly supported Mr Rajapaksa in previous elections.
    BBC News - Sri Lanka's Rajapaksa suffers shock election defeat


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    Senior Contributor Bigfella's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tantalus View Post
    Does sri lanka have a better history of political leadership? Something to strive for.
    Yes. From what I can work out there have been some decent (if flawed) governments. This is the first one for close to 40 years that won't face a significant insurgency.

    Also, is there a particular reason for Chinese investment or are they seeing this as a good investment opportunity? and does anyone internationally hold significant influence over Sri Lanka?
    China is buying influence anywhere & everywhere it can. Sri Lanka is strategically useful relative to India, but I'm not sure it would matter much if it wasn't. Africa is awash with Chinese money & workers and most of that is worse than useless to anybody. Not sure about the influence. India can, though I suspect part of the attraction of China as an ally was to balance that. Big neighbours can sometimes be overbearing. Another attraction was that China doesn't much care about your human rights record. The West sometimes does. It looks like the new government will look to the West a bit more

    I am surprised to read of the apparent inclusion of a tamil political party. The war having finished in such a devastating fashion and the international claims of significant crimes against humanity that I would have thought the situation on the ground would have remained poisonous.
    Like most groups, Tamils have never spoken with a single voice. The LTTE was about as nasty an organization as you will find this side of the DPRK. Tamils who opposed it didn't necessarily have a great set of choices as to who they could ally with. Additionally, from what I can work out Rajapaksa's party wasn't always won by folk with quite so dismissive a view of Tamil life. Additionally, there are always people who will align themselves to power, whatever form it takes. In Malaysia the coalition run by UMNO, a party quite prepared to pander to anti-Chinese sentiment, has always contained a Chinese party. If you think the game is rigged you might sometimes prefer to play with people you despise than not get a seat at the table at all.


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    Great news regarding the election.

    Unclear if he stepped down with grace as some members of the winning coalition are suggesting that the Rajapaksas sought military intervention. If so, they didn't receive it.

    Let's hope the new leader can deliver on enough of his promises and ensure that the democratic process remains intact.

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    Senior Contributor Bigfella's Avatar
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    Allegations that India has been interfering. I'm surprised more was not made of this during the campaign. It would seem an obvious way to discredit the opposition. Makes me wonder if there is more to this.

    Sri Lanka expelled the Colombo station chief of India's spy agency in the run-up to this month's presidential election, political and intelligence sources said, accusing him of helping the opposition oust Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa.

    An Indian foreign ministry spokesman denied any expulsion and said transfers were routine decisions. Mr Rajapaksa, voted out of office in the January 8 election, said he did not know all the facts, and the new government in Colombo has said it is aware of the reports but cannot confirm them.

    But several sources in both Colombo and Delhi said India was asked to recall the agent in December for helping gather support for joint opposition candidate Maithripala Sirisena after persuading him to ditch Mr Rajapaksa's cabinet.

    A sketchy report in Sri Lanka's Sunday Times newspaper on December 28 said "links with the common opposition" had cost India's Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) station chief his job in Colombo.

    .....

    The concern turned to alarm late last year when Mr Rajapaksa allowed two Chinese submarines to dock in Sri Lanka without warning New Delhi as he should have under a standing agreement, the sources said.

    Mr Sirisena, the new president, has said he will visit Delhi on his first foreign trip next month and has said India is the "first, main concern" of his foreign policy.

    An Indian official said the RAW agent was recalled after complaints he had worked with Sri Lanka's usually fractious opposition parties to agree on a joint contender for the election. Then, he was accused of facilitating meetings to encourage several lawmakers, among them Mr Sirisena, to defect from Mr Rajapaksa's party, the official said.

    The agent was accused of playing a role in convincing the main leader of the opposition and former prime minister Ranil Wickremasinghe not to contest against Mr Rajapaksa in the election, and stand aside for someone who could be sure of winning, said the officer and a Sri Lankan lawmaker who also maintains close contacts with India.

    The agent was also in touch with former president Chandrika Kumaratunga, who was a key player in convincing Mr Sirisena to stand, said the officer and the lawmaker, who also confirmed the agent had been asked to leave.

    "They actively were involved, talking to Ranil, getting those things organised, talking to Chandrika," the lawmaker said.

    .....

    Mr Rajapaksa declined to confirm the involvement of India in the campaign against him.

    "I don't know, I won't suspect anybody until I get my real facts," he said at his party headquarters.

    "There are certain things you don't talk about," a close associate of the Rajapaksa family said, but added that "there were clear signs of a deep campaign by foreign elements."

    Sri Lanka's then defence secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa - a brother of the former president - complained about the agent's activities to Indian National Security Adviser Ajit Doval in November when Doval was visiting the island nation for a defence seminar, the Indian official said.

    Another Indian official, who monitors the region for security threats, said Delhi had been watching Beijing's growing influence and heavy investments in Sri Lanka under Rajapaksa, who visited China seven times since becoming president in 2005.

    But India was stunned and angry last year when the Chinese submarines docked in Sri Lanka on two separate occasions, a step Delhi saw as part of Beijing's "string of pearls" strategy to secure a foothold in South Asia and maritime access through the Indian Ocean.

    "The turning point in the relationship was the submarines. There was real anger," the Indian security official said.

    Indian military officials said Delhi reminded Sri Lanka it was obliged to inform its neighbours about such port calls under a maritime pact, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi raised the issue with Mr Rajapaksa at a meeting in New York.

    In a possible sign of shifting allegiances, India's top envoy in Colombo, High Commissioner Y.K. Sinha, presented Mr Sirisena with a large bouquet of flowers just hours after the results were announced on January 9. China's ambassador was only able to meet the new president six days later.

    Indian spy expelled, accused of helping oust Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa


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    Regular SajeevJino's Avatar
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    from the article

    Another Indian official, who monitors the region for security threats, said Delhi had been watching Beijing's growing influence and heavy investments in Sri Lanka under Rajapaksa, who visited China seven times since becoming president in 2005.

    But India was stunned and angry last year when the Chinese submarines docked in Sri Lanka on two separate occasions, a step Delhi saw as part of Beijing's "string of pearls" strategy to secure a foothold in South Asia and maritime access through the Indian Ocean.

    "The turning point in the relationship was the submarines. There was real anger," the Indian security official said.
    Firing Indian Fisherman ..Taking decision against India and favour to Bakistan and China

    I sure Ajit Doval Cooked
    sajeevpearlj.blogspot.com

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    But India was stunned and angry last year when the Chinese submarines docked in Sri Lanka on two separate occasions, a step Delhi saw as part of Beijing's "string of pearls" strategy to secure a foothold in South Asia and maritime access through the Indian Ocean.
    Recall the influence of German warships docked in Turkey at the start of the first world war. A nice reminder, who docks in what port can still be influential in the 21st century.

    Even if India agents greatly influenced the rise of Sirisena's campaign, it may still be the best course for Sri Lanka it what still appears as a fair election, and functioned as a useful counterweight to Chinese influence and associated corruption.

    or it could be as The Who sang "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss".
    Last edited by tantalus; 20 Jan 15, at 16:29.

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    Senior Contributor commander's Avatar
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    Not sure which theory to believe but this is a different story that's doing the rounds,

    Indian spy's role alleged in Sri Lankan president's election defeat

    Sri Lanka expelled the Colombo station chief of India's spy agency in the run-up to this month's presidential election, political and intelligence sources said, accusing him of helping the opposition oust President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
    But considering the relation between India and SL governments in the past year or two I am more compelled to believe this version of the story. Although the reason to expel the chief might be that the SL government was concerned with his 'influence' in SL power circle.
    Last edited by commander; 20 Jan 15, at 18:44.

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    Turbanator Senior Contributor Double Edge's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tantalus View Post
    Even if India agents greatly influenced the rise of Sirisena's campaign, it may still be the best course for Sri Lanka it what still appears as a fair election, and functioned as a useful counterweight to Chinese influence and associated corruption.
    That's it isn't it. A surprise of a result for an authoritarian and he announced the elections two years early

    Quote Originally Posted by tantalus View Post
    or it could be as The Who sang "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss".
    The previous guy was the one that started the China connection. Its a setback but not major. The Chinese will learn to deal with these 'democratic' issues

    Quote Originally Posted by commander View Post
    But considering the relation between India and SL governments in the past year or two I am more compelled to believe this version of the story. Although the reason to expel the chief might be that the SL government was concerned with his 'influence' in SL power circle.
    He could just be a scapegoat. What is his crime ? good campaign advice ?

    Whatever influence we have is sure to grow now. Bilateral relations are in dire need of a reset.

    Let's hope TN comes around to this.
    Last edited by Double Edge; 21 Jan 15, at 04:49.

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    Senior Contributor commander's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Double Edge View Post
    He could just be a scapegoat. What is his crime ? good campaign advice ?

    Whatever influence we have is sure to grow now. Bilateral relations are in dire need of a reset.

    Let's hope TN comes around to this.
    Hmmm.. him being a scapegoat for not a good campaign advice but rather IMHO how he could unite the entire opposition and run a successful campaign against Rajapaksha right under his nose. If he could do that Rajapaksha then he could possibly do that to the current government too if something goes awry.

    Trust me the current government has already gained a lot of goodwill by doing more to the Tamil's than the previous government did. In old days people used to believe what the Tamil leaders say , either praise or mud slinging on the SL government. But the current generation of people are well aware of the ground realities rather than listen to the rhetoric of Vaiko or Karunanidhi or Ramadoss. Also the SL government had informed it will release all TN fishermen along with their boats. Which is a huge move and is widely appreciated. So eventhough you would see the Dravidian parties sometimes engaging in the rhetoric the people would know better.

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    Turbanator Senior Contributor Double Edge's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by commander View Post
    Hmmm.. him being a scapegoat for not a good campaign advice.
    No, Rajapaksa charges that sirisena would not have run without our added encouragement.

    Quote Originally Posted by commander View Post
    but rather IMHO how he could unite the entire opposition and run a successful campaign against Rajapaksha right under his nose. If he could do that Rajapaksha then he could possibly do that to the current government too if something goes awry.
    Exactly. Not much is required, anti-incumbency did the rest. Ten years is a long time to stay in office and hope to get an extension. still, it's hard to imagine he could lose given his achievements but the long tenures of the old days are over. Electorates are fickle and forget easily.

    Quote Originally Posted by commander View Post
    Trust me the current government has already gained a lot of goodwill by doing more to the Tamil's than the previous government did. In old days people used to believe what the Tamil leaders say , either praise or mud slinging on the SL government. But the current generation of people are well aware of the ground realities rather than listen to the rhetoric of Vaiko or Karunanidhi or Ramadoss. Also the SL government had informed it will release all TN fishermen along with their boats. Which is a huge move and is widely appreciated. So eventhough you would see the Dravidian parties sometimes engaging in the rhetoric the people would know better.
    Good to know, the grip TN leaders have had over their people approaches demagoguery. Nobody compares to Karuna (scriptwriter) or MGR (actor) or ever will.

    Quote Originally Posted by tantalus View Post
    Does sri lanka have a better history of political leadership? Something to strive for.
    Had the first lady PM in the world.
    Last edited by Double Edge; 21 Jan 15, at 16:16.

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