M A I N   N E W S

Rajapaksa wins second term
Fonseka wants foreign protection
Chandani Kirinde writes from Colombo

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Wednesday won a second term in office trouncing united opposition candidate Sarath Fonseka, his one-time army chief in jointly eliminating the LTTE who later parted ways.

Rajapaksa was declared the winner after securing 57.88 per cent of the total votes cast. However, Fonseka soon rejected the result and said the election had been heavy rigged and that he would challenge the result in courts.

In dramatic events on a tension-filled day when scores of heavily armed soldiers surrounded a lake-front luxury hotel in central Colombo, where 59-year-old Fonseka was staying, the defeated candidate sought protection from “a neighbouring country”, apparently India, fearing for his safety.

The government, however, dismissed suggestions of any foul play against Fonseka, who quit as army chief late last year following differences with the President, with both claiming credit for eliminating the Tamil Tigers.

In a bitterly-fought contest after the two war heroes fell apart, 64-year-old Rajapaksa secured 5.9 million votes or 58 per cent against Fonseka’s 4.1 million or 40 per cent in the total of 70 per cent votes cast.

Presidential office sources said that “by all accounts, His Excellency Mahinda Rajapaksa has won the Presidential elections as one only needs over 50 per cent of the votes.” Military Spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said the troops had been deployed at the hotel, where Fonseka was staying, following information that suspected army deserters were among 400 people present inside.

“We don’t know what is their motive... whether these are suspected army deserters providing security and whether they are associated with Gen (retd) Sarath Fonseka,” Nanayakkara said.

Fonseka wrote to the Election Commission demanding steps to ensure his security as he claimed that attempts were being made to arrest him, local media reported.

He said he had moved to the hotel as there were attempts to surround his office and arrest him, adding that 10 of his guards had been taken into custody.

Fonseka’s camp said the 10 arrested men were part of the security contingent given to the opposition presidential candidate by Election Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake.

An unnamed senior leader of the main opposition UNP was also quoted as saying by media that Fonseka’s movements had been restricted.

Mano Ganesan, a close aide of the former army chief, said: “We want Sarath Fonseka safe.” “I am going to meet a diplomat of a neighbouring country to seek assurances of Fonseka’s safety,” Ganesan said, apparently referring to India.

“We do not accept the verdict given by electronic media and the result should be declared by the Election Commission. It seems the role of Department of Election is minimal,” he said. Rajapaksa’s supporters came to the streets in many parts of the country bursting crackers to celebrate his victory. — PTI



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