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Poll violence on the rise, three dead

The bitter Presidential battle between incumbent Mahinda Rajapaksa and his strongest challenger Sarath Fonseka is now spilling over to the streets of Sri Lanka with a sharp increase in cases of poll-related violence, reports Sutirtho Patranobis.

world Updated: Jan 18, 2010 18:54 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

The bitter Presidential battle between incumbent Mahinda Rajapaksa and his strongest challenger Sarath Fonseka is now spilling over to the streets of Sri Lanka with a sharp increase in cases of poll-related violence.

With a week remaining for the January 26 election, hundreds of cases violence and arson have been reported to the election desk of the police. At least three including a woman have been killed, several more injured and the police have had to break up rioting and fighting mobs on occasions.

On Monday, one man was killed in fresh clashes between supporters of the ruling and opposition coalitions in central Sri Lanka. ``One man was killed and several others sustained injuries," a spokesperson for the police election secretariat told reporters.

News agency AFP said that nearly 600 poll-related incidents of violence have been reported already

Four election monitoring bodies—Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV), the Campaign for Free and Fair Election (CFFE), Peoples Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL) and Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL)— have warned of a further increase in violence as election day approaches.

Quoting a Presidential spokesperson, AFP said that Rajapaksa has ordered a security crackdown to quell unrest.

``The president is deeply concerned about the violence and has already ordered police to make sure that there is tighter security,’’ a spokesperson was quoted as saying. "He is also appealing to all parties to ensure there is no violence."

The US embassy in Colombo said it was concerned about the escalating violence in Sri Lanka as the country readies for the first national election since the military defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in May, 2009.

``Those who lost their lives are not the only victims of these brutal attacks -- democracy is also a victim," the US embassy said in a statement. "Such violence undermines the democratic rights and traditions of Sri Lanka,’’ it added.