January 27, 2010

Sri Lanka's COIN shortage

Sri Lanka’s election has a foul smell to it. Maybe President Mahinda Rajapaksa really did secure 58.8% of the vote and defeat his former general Sarath Fonseka. He just won a war, right? But the election is already sounding like a coronation.

"By all accounts, His Excellency Mahinda Rajapaksa has won the presidential elections as one only needs over 50 per cent of the votes," said sources from his presidential office.

Mobilization of state resources against him, combined with a quick count, has General Fonsek alleging a conspiracy. Either he would be arrested, he warned beforehand, or violence might break out. A peaceful and robust turn out, over 70% of Sri Lanka’s electorate coincided with Fonseka’s hotel being surrounded by his former soldiers.

A stand-off would make for a riveting spectacle and suggests some underhanded dealing did indeed occur. Rumors of a coup have circulated state media, propaganda for sure, and Rajapaska’s explanation for surrounding Fonseka - a search for army deserters - sounds sketchy. But Fonseka has a problem.

He had been expecting his final swing of momentum from the Tamil minority, who had mostly backed him. The AP reports, “turnout among the minority was dismal.”

This was our real worry going into the election, the Tamils either being harassed from voting or succumbing to apathy. Rajapaksa seems to believe the insurgency is over. It is not, and the surest way to keep it alive is political marginalization.

Naturally we’re keeping a few eyes on Colombo, being especially curious of the international reaction to any foul play.

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