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.


Hackers attempt to take down UK Labour Party’s web services ahead of election

Updated 18 min 28 sec ago

Hackers attempt to take down UK Labour Party’s web services ahead of election

  • Britain’s security agencies have warned that Russia and other countries could use cyberattacks messages on social media to attempt to disrupt the election
  • The nature of such attacks often made it difficult to attribute responsibility to any particular group, a NCSC spokesman said

LONDON: Hackers attacked Britain’s opposition Labour Party, bombarding its web services with malicious traffic in an attempt to force them offline just weeks ahead of a national election, party and security officials said on Tuesday,
“We have experienced a sophisticated and large-scale cyberattack on Labour digital platforms,” Labour said in a statement. “We took swift action and these attempts failed due to our robust security systems.
The party was confident data breach occurred, it said.
Britain’s security agencies have warned that Russia and other countries could use cyberattacks or political messages on social media to attempt to disrupt the Dec. 12 election.
Moscow has repeatedly denied Western allegations of election interference and a person with knowledge of the matter said an initial investigation had found nothing to link the Labour Party attack to a foreign state.
Britain’s National Cyber Security Center, part of the GCHQ signals intelligence agency, said the attack was a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack — a technique used by hackers to take down websites by overwhelming them with malicious traffic.
“DDoS attacks are a common form of attack used by a very wide range of attackers. Mitigation techniques are available and worked in this case,” a NCSC spokesman said.
The nature of such attacks often made it difficult to attribute responsibility to any particular group, he said.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the attack was very serious but was successfully repelled by the party’s defense systems when the digital assault began on Monday.
“But if this is a sign of things to come in this election, I feel very nervous about it all,” he said. “Because a cyberattack against a political party in an election is suspicious and something one is very worried about.”
A Labour spokesman said that while the attack had slowed down some campaign activity, they were restored on Tuesday.
The person with knowledge of the matter said any Labour Party web services currently offline were not directly connected to the attack.
Britain goes to the polls on Dec. 12 in an election called by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to try to break the Brexit deadlock in parliament more than three years since the country voted to leave the European Union.
A report by parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee has investigated Russian activity in British politics and reportedly includes charges of spying and interference in polls, including the 2016 Brexit referendum and the 2017 national election.
The government, however, has declined to publish it before the upcoming election.