Sri Lanka. According to COUNTRYAAH, 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The new Parliament repealed some of the exceptions that have been in effect for almost three decades.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.