A Hindu temple caretaker in Colombo
I meant to post some words and photos of our blissful holiday in Sri Lanka many months ago. I guess I never got around to doing it because the peacefulness of a vacation doesn’t translate well into a blog post – at least as I see it…
But as it’s been a great day for democracy in Sri Lanka – and despite the fact that the images have no bearing whatsoever on the content of this post – I figure now’s the time to get them up for display – but offer my apologies for the discord…
Sri Lanka’s new president Maithripala Sirisena is being sworn into office this very minute, following a surprise victory over the country’s long-term leader and Sirisena’s former political ally, Mahinda Rajapaksa. Rajapaksa assumed power in 2010 and was seeking a third term.
“His supporters credit [Rajapaksa] with ending the civil war and boosting the economy, but critics say he had become increasingly authoritarian and corrupt,” reports the BBC.
This tallies with what I heard from locals while holidaying in the stunning tear-shaped island last April. Many a billboard sported Rajapaksa’s smiling profile – and that was well before he announced the snap election in November. His visual prominence instinctively made me a little wary.
“Our president built new roads and made our country cleaner and better organised – but his ego and thirst for ever greater powers irritates and worries me,” said a woman I met in Colombo
“But we have no one else,” she’d added with a shrug.
Enter Sirisena: the health minister who abruptly switched sides and pledged to put an end to the “unlimited powers of the president” if elected.
Both the political heavyweights and minority parties threw their weight behind him, and today he secured a majority vote of 51.3 percent.
“Many in Sri Lanka are stunned by these events – not just because they have a new president, but because democracy has worked and there has been so little of the vote rigging, intimidation and election violence of the past,” reported the BBC.
Dozens of lives were lost during previous presidential elections – yet this time around, just one death was reported (needless to say, that is still one too many).