Rajapakse re-elected Sri Lanka’s president

Mahinda Rajapakse waves to his supporters after his re-election as Sri Lanka’s president in Colombo yesterday. (REUTERS)

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse won a bruising re-election battle that left his main rival in apparent fear of assassination as heavily-armed troops surrounded his Colombo hotel.

The elections commissioner said Rajapakse had secured 57.9 per cent of the popular vote in Tuesday’s presidential election – the first since the military victory over Tamil Tiger rebels last May ended the decades-long civil war.

“This is a victory for the people,” Rajapakse said after the announcement. “I thank those who voted for me and those who did not. I will work for all of them.”

The main challenger, former army chief Sarath Fonseka, got 40.1 per cent of the vote and vowed to challenge the result in court. (AFP)

Even as the votes were still being counted, up to 100 soldiers with machine guns surrounded the luxury Colombo hotel where Fonseka was holed up with several other opposition leaders.

Military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said the troop deployment followed information that Fonseka had hunkered down in the hotel with 400 people, some of whom were "army deserters".

Nanayakkara insisted the move was simply a precautionary measure and that the retired four-star general was free to leave whenever he chose.

But Fonseka told reporters that the government was plotting to have him killed by removing his personal security guards and exposing him to assassination.

"They are behaving like murderers," he said. "We will never accept this result. We will petition (the court) against it," he added.

Fonseka's spokesman, Mano Ganeshan, said the former general wanted foreign protection. "I am going to meet a diplomat of a neighbouring country to seek assurances for his safety," Ganeshan said, in an apparent reference to India.

The government had earlier accused Fonseka of employing a private militia consisting of army deserters, a charge denied by the opposition.

 

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