Sri Lanka police raid presidential candidate office

Sri Lankan police raided the office of losing presidential candidate General Sarath Fonseka on Friday, an aide said.

Sri Lanka police raid presidential candidate office

Sri Lankan police raided the office of losing presidential candidate General Sarath Fonseka on Friday, an aide said, two days after troops had surrounded him inside a hotel on suspicion he was plotting a coup.

Fonseka lost Tuesday's election to incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa by 1.8 million votes, after a bruising campaign with personal attacks by both, who last May stood together in victory over the Tamil Tiger separatists after a 25-year war.

"The police Special Task Force broke into the office of Sarath Fonseka," aide Asanka Magedara told Reuters.

A Reuters journalist saw police commandos outside Fonseka's office. Police spokesman I.M. Karunaratne said he had heard of a raid but could not immediately confirm it.

Also on Friday, JVP legislator Vijitha Herath said police arrested Chandana Sirimalwatte, editor of the Lanka newspaper. The paper is seen as favouring the JVP, a Marxist party which joined other opposition parties to back Fonseka.

Karunaratne, the police spokesman, said he had no official statement.

On Wednesday, soldiers surrounded the luxury hotel where Fonseka and other opposition leaders went after polling finished and vote counting was proceeding.

The former army commander said he feared arrest but later walked out a free man. The military said it had gone there to arrest army deserters with him that may have been plotting a coup.

Local and international observers generally praised the election's conduct, but condemned campaign violence, abuse of state resources and state media and urged investigation of election complaints. Five people were killed before the vote.

An observer mission from the 54-nation Commonwealth on Friday praised the work of the electoral commission, but said Sri Lanka "will not fully meet key benchmarks for democratic elections" until the panel was allowed sufficient independence to enforce election laws.

"There is a compromised pre-election environment, including (an) election management body unable to fully ensure respect for the rule of law; a failure of some state institutions to respect legal provisions...and incidences of violence," it said in a statement.

Immediately after the war ended in May, Rajapaksa and his brother Gotabaya, a former army officer who is the defence secretary, began to claim Fonseka might attempt a coup.

So the president promoted him to the newly created job of chief of defence staff, which in effect sidelined Fonseka because he had no control of troops. Fonseka said those were two of the reasons he retired to enter the race in November.

Reuters


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Last Mod: 29 Ocak 2010, 15:22
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