Tough fight predicted for four in Sri Lanka election

The four candidates in fray for Sri Lankan president are (clockwise from left) Mahesh Senanayake, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Sajith Premadasa and Anura Kumara Dissanayake. The vote is set for Nov. 16. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 02 October 2019

Tough fight predicted for four in Sri Lanka election

  • Voters from minorities such as Muslims and Tamils ‘will be the deciding factor’

COLOMBO: As Sri Lanka gears up for its presidential elections on Nov. 16, prospective candidates were preparing to submit their nominations on Oct. 7, officials told Arab News on Tuesday.

The incumbent, President Maithripala Sirisena, who is also the leader of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, hasn’t announced his decision to contest the polls yet.

However, in January 2015, when he took his oath as president, he said that he would not re-contest for the presidency after the completion of his term.

Four candidates have so far announced their intentions to contest the post. The first is the deputy leader of the United National Party (UNP), Sajith Premadasa, son of former President Ranasinghe Premadasa; the second is former Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who claims that he was responsible for the victory over Tamil rebels on the island and brought an end to the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka; the third is Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake, who says he is determined to free Sri Lanka of nepotism, corruption and work toward economic development. 

The latest addition to the fray is Army Commander Mahesh Senanayake, who retired recently and believes that the country can move toward prosperity only with proper discipline.

Besides these four candidates, six more have expressed their desire to contest the presidency.

Born in 1967, Sajith Premadasa, cabinet minister for housing, construction and cultural affairs and Member of Parliament for the Hambantota district, is well known for his hard work. 

He developed more than 125 villages in various parts of the country to ameliorate the conditions of the poor.

An acclaimed social worker, he claims to understand the needs of the common man, while reiterating the fact that he was the only person who carried out development programs with the cooperation of commoners.

Major minority parties — such as the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress and the Sri Lanka Makkal Congress, headed by Ministers Rauf Hakeem and Rishath Bathiudeen — are backing Premadasa, supported by Tamil leaders such as former Northern Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran.

Sri Lanka Pohottuwa Party nominee Gotabaya Rajapaksa, brother of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who has been named in several murder, abduction and anti-Muslim cases, believes he could win the presidency with the votes of the majority Sinhalese, who form 85 percent of the island’s population.

Rajapaksa was instrumental in beautifying Colombo city and improving the road networks in the country and says that the need of the hour is to give adequate security to the people, which he is confident about doing.

A problem looming over his candidacy is that he holds dual citizenship with the US, but he claims to have relinquished the foreign citizenship recently.

Mahesh Senanayake, who is the presidential candidate of the National People’s Movement and People’s Forum Organization, said on Monday that he had come forward as a presidential candidate to safeguard the country which is in turmoil, adding that he intended to develop the country by working with patriots.

JVP leader MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake, who will lead the National People’s Power (NPP) movement, says that Sri Lanka will be converted to a proud and unshaken country in the world. 

He invited capable people who love the country to join his effort to lead the country toward this target.

M. Ameen, veteran journalist and Leader of the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka said that this is going to be a tough election where four candidates will have equal shares of voters. 

He added that the voters from the minority communities such as Muslims and Tamils will be the deciding factor in the election.


Pakistan couple arrested for allegedly murdering seven-year-old maid

Updated 17 min 58 sec ago

Pakistan couple arrested for allegedly murdering seven-year-old maid

  • Hassan Siddiqui and his wife employed Zohra Bibi at their home in a middle-class suburb of Rawalpindi
  • Some 8.5 million people — including many children — are employed as domestic workers in Pakistan

RAWALPINDI, Pakistan: A Pakistan couple have been arrested for allegedly murdering their seven-year-old maid after she was blamed for letting a pet bird escape, police said, the latest case of violence against child domestic workers in the country.
Hassan Siddiqui and his wife employed Zohra Bibi at their home in a middle-class suburb of Rawalpindi, near the capital Islamabad, to care for their son of a similar same age.
“The poor girl was subjected to torture by Siddiqui and his wife who accused her of freeing one of the four pet Macao parrots,” investigating officer Mukhtar Ahmad said on Thursday.
“Siddiqui kicked her in the lower abdomen which proved fatal.”
Some 8.5 million people — including many children — are employed as domestic workers in Pakistan, according to the International Labour Organization.
Theoretically it is illegal to employ anyone under the age of 15, but it remains common practice.
Zohra was taken to hospital by the couple on Sunday, but died the following day. The incident was reported to the police by staff at the hospital.
The young girl’s body was handed over to her parents, who live in Muzaffargarh, near the city of Multan, more than 500 kilometers away from where she was working.
Human rights minister Shireen Mazari confirmed the arrests in a tweet and said the ministry was in touch with police.
“Violence and physical torture against children will not be tolerated and all those involved in such incidents will be dealt with,” city police chief Muhammad Ahsan Younus added.
Domestic workers frequently face exploitation, violence and sexual abuse, with Pakistan’s patriarchal and rigid social-class structure leaving them without a voice.
Children are particularly vulnerable, and Bibi’s case is the latest in a growing number of incidents involving minors.
In December 2018, the rising number of abuse cases led the provincial legislature in Punjab to set regulations for the employment of domestic workers, which theoretically grants them rights such as sick leave and holidays.