Daily Archives: January 9, 2015

From low profile leader to giant killer: Know more about Sirisena who defeats President Rajapaksa

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Colombo, Jan 9: Maithripala Sirisena, Sri Lanka’s President-elect, was a low-profile cabinet colleague of longtime president Mahinda Rajapaksa until he switched sides to become joint opposition candidate and emerge as the proverbial dark horse in the presidential polls.

The 63-year-old farmer-turned-politician deserted the incumbent President to take charge of the fractured opposition ahead of the polls with a promise to “end the Rajapaksa family rule” and romped home victorious.

With his peasant background, Sirisena appealed to the rural electorate while his main backer, the United National Party (UNP), enjoyed popularity in urban areas. Hailing from the rural north central province, Sirisena does not speak English, is ever seen in the national dress. He has no background of hobnobbing with the Colombo elite and socialites. No old boy of a leading Colombo school, he was more than a match for Rajapaksa’s rural appeal.

In the run up to the election, he pledged to abolish the executive presidency within 100 days of being elected, repeal the controversial 18th amendment, re-instate the 17th amendment and appoint UNP leader Ranil Wickremasinghe as Prime Minister.

Sirisena took on the ruling family, charging that the country was heading towards a dictatorship with corruption and nepotism prevailing. Accused of being a proxy of former president Chandrika Kumaratunga, who asked her loyalists to vote for him, Sirisena vowed to root out corruption and bring constitutional reforms to weaken the power of the presidency.

Sirisena backed by the main opposition United National Party and another key breakaway group, the JHU or the Buddhist Monk party plan to chalk out a series of constitutional and democratic reforms. Born on 3 September 1951, Sirisena joined mainstream politics in 1989 through the Sri Lankan Freedom Party.

The son of a World War II veteran, Sirisena was in jail for almost two years after being arrested on suspicion of leading a revolt against the government in 1971.

PTI

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People Desired Change of Political Culture: Ranil Wickremesinghe

COLOMBO: The defeat of incumbent Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the victory of the joint opposition candidate Maithripala Sirisena in the January 8 Lankan Presidential election, represents a popular yearning for a radical change in the political culture of the island nation, said the Leader of the Opposition in the Lankan parliament, Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Addressing newspersons here on Friday, Wickremesinghe, whose United National Party (UNP) was the main prop of Sirisena’s hurriedly put together National Democratic Front (NDF), said that Lankans wanted “an end to mal governance and the politics of revenge.”

The opposition leader did not take questions and clarify his remarks, but it was clear that he was referring to the way Rajapaksa treated Gen.Sarath Fonseka, Army Commander and hero of Eelam War IV, and Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranaike, when he talked of “politics of revenge”.

Both Fonseka and Bandaranaike were sacked after a mock trial and a manipulated impeachment. Fonseka was stripped of his rank and medals, tried, and jailed for treason, when all he did was dare take on Rajapaksa in the 2010 Presidential election. Fonseka had subsequently joined the Sirisena camp, and Sirisena has promised to restore his rank, medals and status.

Justice Shirani Bandaranaike was impeached for alleged financial impropriety when in fact she was removed for not toeing the government’s line and calling for a federal constitution to accommodate the Tamils’ interests.

Rajapaksa’s second term, which began in 2010, was marked by an unprecedented concentration of power in the hands of the Executive President, his immediate and extended family, and a small coterie around him. Relations and cronies with no formal qualifications or experience were appointed to high profile offices despite public opposition.

The media was brought in line by manipulating the proprietors and threatening journalists. It was in Rajapaksa’s time that fearless top journalists like Lasantha Wickramatunge of The Sunday Leader and freelance journalist D.Sivaram were murdered. These cases are yet to be solved. Cartoonist Prageeth Eknaligoda who disappeared some years ago, is still to be traced. Under international pressure, Commissions of Inquiry were appointed to investigate allegations of human rights violations and war crimes, but from the way these commissions functioned it was clear that rendering justice was not their objective.

TNIE

Sirisena to take oath on Friday evening

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Sri Lanka’s president-elect Maithripala Sririsena will take oath as the new president on Friday evening, an aide said.

Sirisena will be sworn in at the Independence Square here at 6.20 p.m. (local time), his spokesperson said.

Earlier, outgoing president Mahinda Rajapaksa conceded defeat in the presidential election held on Thursday.

IANS

US looks forward to working with Sri Lankan President-elect

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The US looks forward to working with Sri Lankan president-elect Maithripala Sirisena, Secretary of State John Kerry today said, as he commended outgoing President Mahinda Rajapaksa for accepting the election results.

“I look forward to working with President-elect Maithripala Sirisena as his new government works to implement its campaign platform of a Sri Lanka that is peaceful, inclusive, democratic, and prosperous,” Kerry said in a statement soon after Rajapaksa conceded defeat.

“I commend President Rajapaksa for accepting the results of the election in the proud tradition of peaceful and orderly transfers of power in Sri Lanka. His words tonight about accepting the verdict of the people and moving forward are important,” Kerry said.

Rajapaksa had called the election two years ahead of schedule, hoping to win a record third six-year term before the defeat of the Tamil Tigers fades in the memory of the people of the island which saw a three decades war over the demand of a separate Tamil Eelam.

There was an unusual high voter turn-out for the elections held yesterday.

“The Sri Lankan people deserve great credit on the successful conclusion of their elections. They turned out in great numbers to exercise their democratic rights and every vote was a victory for Sri Lanka,” Kerry said.

“The United States applauds the Sri Lankan Elections Commissioner, the security forces, Sri Lankan civil society, and the candidates themselves for making sure this election was not marred by unrest and for ensuring a significant drop in campaign-related violence. It will be important for that effort to continue in the coming days,” he added.

DH

Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa concedes defeat after a decade in power

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Mahinda Rajapaksa Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa conceded defeat to his opposition challenger on Friday after a presidential election, ending a decade of rule that critics say had become increasingly authoritarian and marred by nepotism and corruption.

“We don’t have any good news. It is all bad news,” said a senior government official and close ally of Rajapaksa as the results came in from Thursday’s election on this Indian Ocean island of 21 million people. “I think people need a change and this is democracy.”

Celebratory firecrackers could be heard exploding in the capital, Colombo, after the president’s office said Rajapaksa had met a leader of the opposition to accept the victory of his challenger, Mithripala Sirisena. There was no sign of protests or a major mobilisation of security forces.

Sirisena, a former government minister who deserted the president and changed sides to become the opposition’s candidate in November, has vowed to root out corruption and bring constitutional reforms to weaken the power of the presidency.

Seeking an unprecedented third term, Rajapaksa called the election two years early, confident that – despite his waning popularity – the fractured opposition would fail to find a credible candidate.

But he did not anticipate the emergence of Sirisena, who dined with him one evening and turned on him the next day.

The Department of Elections said that of 3.26 million votes counted so far, Sirisena had taken 51.3 percent and Rajapaksa was trailing on 46.9 percent. Other candidates accounted for the rest of the votes cast by an electorate of around 15 million.

Presidential coordinator Wijayananda Herath said Rajapaksa met Ranil Wickremesinghe, who will be prime minister under the new president, to concede defeat and asked him to “facilitate a smooth transition”.

Sirisena is expected to be sworn in later on Friday.

Rajapaksa won handsomely in the last election in 2010, surfing a wave of popularity months after the defeat of ethnic Tamil separatists who had waged a crippling war against the state for decades.

But critics say he had become increasingly authoritarian since becoming president, with several members of his family holding key positions of power.

The early results showed Rajapaksa remained popular among the country’s Sinhala Buddhists, who account for around 70 percent of the population, but Sirisena took his lead from the ethnic Tamil-dominated former war zone in the north of the country and Muslims-dominated areas.

Sirisena is set to lead a potentially fractious coalition of ethnic, religious, Marxist and centre-right parties.

He has pledged to abolish the executive presidency that gave Rajapaksa unprecedented power and hold a fresh parliamentary election within 100 days.

He has also promised a crackdown on corruption, which would include investigations into big infrastructure projects such as a $1.5 billion deal with China Communications Construction Co Ltd to build a port city.

IT

MR leaves Temple Trees

President Mahinda Rajapaksa has vacated Temple Trees-his official residence for the past ten years – early this morning.

Rajapaksa as a gesture of respect for public’s decision has left Temple Trees this morning at around 4.30 am.

Sources confirmed he left his official residence following a meeting held with Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe. 

CT

Sri Lanka opposition candidate takes early lead in presidential vote

By Shihar Aneez

COLOMBO (Reuters) – The Sri Lankan opposition candidate for the presidency took a strong lead over incumbent Mahinda Rajapaksa in early results announced from the vote count after Thursday’s election.

The Department of Elections said results from 11 of the country’s 160 polling divisions plus a large number of postal votes gave Mithripala Sirisena a lead of 56.5 percent against 42 percent for Rajapaksa, who is seeking a third term as president.

“We don’t have any good news. It is all bad news,” said a senior government official and close ally of Rajapaksa, declining to be named. “I think people need a change and this is democracy.”

Sirisena, a former government minister who deserted the president and changed sides to become the opposition’s candidate in November, has vowed to root out corruption and bring constitutional reforms to weaken the power of the presidency.

Rajapaksa won handsomely in the last election in 2010, surfing a wave of popularity that sprang from the defeat in the previous year of ethnic Tamil separatists who had waged a crippling war against the state for decades.

But critics say he has become increasingly authoritarian since becoming president, with several members of his family holding key positions of power.

The early results showed Rajapaksa remained popular among the country’s Sinhala Buddhists, who account for around 70 percent of the population, but his challenger had taken a strong lead from the ethnic Tamil-dominated former war zone in the north of the country and Muslims-dominated areas.

Despite his waning popularity, Rajapaksa called the latest election early, confident that the perennially fractured opposition would fail to find a credible challenger. He did not anticipate the emergence of Sirisena, who dined with the president one night and turned on him the next day.

Election officials said the turnout from an electorate of about 15 million was provisionally 65-80 percent. A clear winner may not emerge until later on Friday.

(Writing by John Chalmers; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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