Sri Lanka. According to
Sri Lanka has a population of 21.67 million (2018). President Mahinda Rajapaksa was re-elected in
January with 57.8 percent of the vote. His closest
challenger, former commander-in-chief and deadly enemy
Sarath Fonseka, received 40 percent. They were both former
allies, but they faced each other after the army victory
over the Tamil guerrilla in 2009. The election battle
between them was very bitter and they accused each other of
harboring murder plans. Shortly after the election, Fonseka
was arrested after he said he would appeal the result, and
dozens of his supporters in the army were dismissed and
charged with coup preparation.
Fonseka was indicted in a military court for engaging in
politics while still belonging to the army and for illegal
procurement during his time as army chief.
Despite ongoing trials, he was able to stand in the
parliamentary elections in April as leader of a new party,
the Democratic National Alliance. He was elected, but the
presidential party grouping United People's Freedom Alliance
won big, taking 144 of the 225 seats. President Rajapaksa
appointed party veteran Disanayaka Mudiyanselage Jayaratne
as new prime minister.
After being convicted of unauthorized political activity,
Fonseka was deprived of his general title, his military
awards and his pension. When he was later also convicted of
illegal procurement, he was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison
and was also deprived of his parliamentary seat. He was also
prosecuted in a civil court for hiring army deserters during
his campaign staff before the presidential election. For
that, he risks 20 years in prison.
The new Parliament repealed some of the exceptions that
have been in effect for almost three decades. Among other
things, freedom of assembly and pressure is increased, but
the security forces retain the right to keep anyone
imprisoned indefinitely without prosecution or judgment.
Parliament also adopted a constitutional amendment that
greatly expands the president's power and allows him to seek
re-election an unlimited number of times.
In July, the EU decided to waive Sri Lanka's favorable
terms of trade with the European Union because of its lack
of respect for human rights. The measure was expected to hit
the textile and fishing industries hard. UN
Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon appointed a three-man
commission in June to investigate possible human rights
violations, but the Commission was refused a visa to Sri
Lanka. The UN office in Colombo was besieged for several
days by protesters, led by the housing minister, which
prevented staff from moving freely. The UN ambassador to Sri
Lanka left the country in protest of the disturbances, on
the order of Ban Ki Moon.
Instead, the government appointed its own investigation
into the events at the end of the war, but it met with
distrust in the outside world.
A Chinese-built major port in Hambantota in southern Sri
Lanka was inaugurated in a first phase in August. In the
vicinity, work began on the construction of a new
international airport during the year. Both projects are
part of a Chinese aid package worth a total of US $ 6
billion to rebuild the country's post-war infrastructure.