Category: Sri Lanka

IN PHOTOS: Sri Lanka’s beauty – and today’s presidential elections

A Hindu temple caretaker in Colombo

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…

A tortoise just hatched at Kosgoda Turtle Sanctuary
A tortoise just hatched at Kosgoda Turtle Sanctuary

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.

 

Sri Lankans are mad about cricket - you'd be mad to miss one in super scenic Galle
Sri Lankans are mad about cricket – you’d be mad to miss one in super scenic Galle

“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.

A street scene of a suburb in Colombo that beggars belief but is endearing in the extreme - Slave Island
A street scene of a suburb in Colombo that beggars belief but is endearing in the extreme – Slave Island

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.

A Buddhist devotee at Kandy's Temple of the Tooth Relic
A Buddhist devotee at Kandy’s Temple of the Tooth Relic

“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.

Stilt fishing in Weligama
Stilt fishing in Weligama

Enter Sirisena: the health minister who abruptly switched sides and pledged to put an end to the “unlimited powers of the president” if elected.

Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage
Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage

Both the political heavyweights and minority parties threw their weight behind him, and today he secured a majority vote of 51.3 percent.

The Galle Face Hotel, Colombo
The Galle Face Hotel, Colombo

“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.

Hikkaduwa beach, just 98 kilometres south of Colombo
Hikkaduwa beach, just 98 kilometres south of Colombo

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).

The Dutch Hospital is the oldest building in Colombo and its cobblestoned piazzas make it the most atmospheric destination for night-time revellers. Live bands often play Sri Lankan-Latin fusions.
The Dutch Hospital is the oldest building in Colombo and its cobblestoned piazzas make it the most atmospheric destination for night-time revellers. Live bands often play Sri Lankan-Latin fusions.
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