The political atmosphere in the run-up to the crucial Sri Lanka presidential election further soared on Friday as a bomb targeting a key supporter of the combined opposition candidate, retired Army Chief, Sarath Fonseka.
Worried over possible fall out, the government issued a statement expressing grave concern at what it termed as ‘this wanton act of violence’ and alleged that the incident appears to have been carried out to disrupt and discredit the upcoming election.
Both the opposition and the government pressed alarm bells after a bomb targeting the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (Mangala) National Organiser and General Secretary Tiran Alles went off late on Thursday night. Mr. Alles who was asleep at the rear part of his house was unharmed and a vehicle parked inside the compound of the house was damaged.
The fight is mainly between the incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa who chose to advance the election two years ahead of his tenure and the former Army Chief General(Retired), Sarath Fonseka, who is the consensus nominee of the opposition.
Till the entry of the retired General into politics in late October, re-election of Mr. Rajapaksa was considered a certainty. Both Mr. Rajapaksa and General(Retired) Fonseka, regarded as ‘war heroes’ are expected by conventional wisdom to split the 75 per cent majority Sinhalese vote.
Hence, much to the dislike of the minorities in general and Tamils in particular all attention is on who they would prefer to see in the presidential chair. Tamils account for 12.5 per cent of the 21 million population and 14 million voters in the country.
It is against this backdrop that the latest explosion targeting a campaign manager of General(Retired) Fonseka has raised fresh worries. The main opposition United National Party (UNP) in a statement noted that Mr. Alles had complained that there were dire threats to his life from the government quarters.
In its statement the government said, ‘Perpetrators of previous incidents are being brought to justice and those involved in this latest cowardly act will face the full force of the law.
“We are wholly committed to ensuring a free, peaceful and democratic election in every part of our country. These isolated incidents will not be allowed to affect this goal. Instructions were given to the authorities to bolster security at sensitive locations and all political events up to and on polling day to ensure that all Sri Lankans can participate safely in the electoral process”.
A report posted by President’s election campaign office quoted him as saying that sections of the Tamil National Alliance used votes cast for the opposition at this month’s polls to obtain the assistance of international forces aiming to divide Sri Lanka.
“They are preparing to use the percentage of vote as a mandate to separate the country,” he pointed out.
Addressing a rally in Nittambuwa on Thursday the President said the people have already rallied to defeat the secret pact signed between the candidate of the New Democratic Front and the TNA.
A report by the election office of General(Retired) Fonseka quoted him as saying at a rally that after the January 26 the country will head for a new era and he has made all the plans to put the country on the road to recovery.
“General (Retired) Fonseka said he will see to it that every citizen who hasn’t got an inch of land gets ownership in this motherland. If the raging corruption and frauds now raging in the country and which is eating up the economy can be eradicated , developing the country is no big task.”