They are not known to be geeks but President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his strongest contender Sarath Fonseka have taken their political sabers to cyberspace.
With help from the Sinhala and Tamil diaspora, Rajapaksa and Fonseka are all over the internet. Scores of sites about the two have sprung up. Social networking sites are having a field day, and thousands of hits, with supporters of the two slugging it out virtually.
Both have websites as well as official facebook sites where followers are updating quotes, photos and videos by the hour.
Their aides said dedicated teams have been deployed to conduct the net campaign. ``There are groups of volunteers who are chipping in. We do not want to miss out on the advancement in technology,’’ a Presidential aide said, adding that during the last Presidential election in 2005 some of the new concepts were yet to become popular.
He might not be a blackberry user but Rajapaksa knows the power of the internet; he had invited India’s tech guru Narayan Murthy in 2008 to usher in the year of information technology in Sri Lanka. Fonseka too had told an interviewer that it’s easy to handle a war from anywhere with a map and satellite phone.
Of course, there is no doubt volunteers are chipping in; as at 5.35 pm on Friday, Rajapaksa had 36,012 supporters on his official facebook page. Retired army commander Fonseka had 47421 at the same time.
More than the official websites, interactive social networking sites where people can post opinions have become more popular. It’s given the deeply divided supporters a platform to express their opinion on the candidates’ policies and politics.
But not everything on the two is laudatory on the internet. There are several fake sites as well. The Tamil diaspora too is flooding the net with critical opinions against both. Video of the alleged execution of blind-folded prisoners by men in military fatigues is all over Youtube. Sites and articles on the situation of the displaced Tamil refugees are also being shared by thousands.
Rajapaksa and Fonseka know that what will finally count are the votes they poll on January 26. But till then, facebook them.