Sri Lanka’s opposition leader Ranil Wickramasinghe has accused the government of deploying troops to intimidate Sri Lanka’s minority Tamils from voting in the upcoming presidential polls.
Addressing diplomats and journalists here on Thursday — a week ahead of the January 8 elections — he said the joint opposition, challenging President Mahinda Rajapaksa, had received information on retired army professionals “training” military troops to deter voters in different electorates, particularly those in the island-nation’s North and East. “It is not a free and election by any means,” he said.
Former Prime Minister Mr. Wickremesinghe, one of the principal supporters of joint opposition candidate Maithripala Sirisena, said people of the country wanted change, and will be coming out and voting for that change.
In a week from now Sri Lanka goes to polls, widely expected to be a close contest. Addressing a campaign rally in Kandy on Friday, a confident-sounding President Rajapaksa said: “Seeing the sea of people while addressing you from this historical Kandyan City, I am sure of victory on the 8th.”
On Thursday, Deputy Minister of Higher Education Nandimithra Ekanayake quit the government to support Mr. Sirisena.
“I am leaving the government to create a better future for our country,” he said, a day after Faizer Mustapha, a President’s Counsel and Deputy Minister of Investment, defected to the joint opposition. Mr. Ekanayake’s defection brought to 25 the number of ruling party lawmakers who have joined the opposition.