Death hangs over election in Sri Lanka: Tim McGirk reports from Colombo on the blood-spattered campaign which ends tomorrow
Monday 15 August 1994
It is also a game played by widows. Campaigning in tomorrow's general election are four women whose husbands, all politicians, have been assassinated either by terrorists or rivals. Nor is chivalry much in evidence. Several of the widows believe they too could die as viciously as their men did.
Foremost among them is Chandrika Kumaratunga, who is leading the Peoples' Alliance effort to unseat the United National Party (UNP), which has ruled Sri Lankan politics for the past 17 tumultuous years. Her prime minister father, S W R D Bandaranaike, was shot dead in 1959, and so was her husband in 1988. Now, as her party stands on the brink of sweeping the UNP out of office, she is convinced that her foes have hired two contract killers to finish her off.
'I ask myself why I'm doing this,' said Mrs Kumaratunga yesterday. She is an earthy woman, 48, with a wry laugh and has a weakness for saris of vivid turqouise and gold. 'Afraid is not the word. But I'm constantly aware that I could be killed in the next few minutes.' She claimed the police stopped their hunt for the two would-be assassins when the trail seemed to be heading towards the Colombo palace of the UNP President of Sri Lanka, D B Wijetunga.
The UNP have dismissed Mrs Kumaratunga's allegations as paranoia, yet the ruling party has a legacy of thuggishness that lingers from the Premadasa era when tens of thousands were killed in a crackdown on island left-wingers. Nearly all the 19 murder victims in this month-long campaign for 225 parliamentary seats were workers of Mrs Kumaratunga's party, gunned down on jungle roads.
The race is close. Some opinion polls predict a hung parliament; if so, it will be the first since Sri Lanka achieved independence from Britain in 1948. But the left-wing Peoples' Alliance claim that if they do not win it is because the voting will be rigged against them. The excuse is convenient but perhaps correct. Many of the senior police and army officers, who will oversee the voting, are worried that if Mrs Kumaratunga wins, she will prosecute them for atrocities during the 1988-89 left-wing uprising.
Even if the balloting is fair, Mrs Kumaratunga is not guaranteed a victory. Her Peoples' Alliance has been weakened by a three-way dynastic struggle. The Bandaranaike family has towered over Sri Lanka, but is now wrenched apart by a feud between mother, daughter and son.
The three may live in the same posh estate of colonial mansions, called Rosmead Place in Colombo, but Mrs Kumaratunga has few words to share with her mother - a former prime minister, now 78 - and even fewer with her Oxford-educated brother, Anura. He crossed over to the UNP party in a huff when it became apparent that his charismatic sister was gaining control of the party.
- 1 Secret Cinema: Why were Back to the Future screenings cancelled?
- 2 Christians: The world's most persecuted people
- 3 The secret report that helps Israelis to hide facts
- 4 Thatcher ‘was warned of Tory child sex party claims’
- 5 The Simpsons Family Guy trailer: First look at crossover episode after Comic-Con debut
A new Russian revolution: The cracks are starting to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Thatcher ‘was warned of Tory child sex party claims’
Lauren Goodger sex tape: Reality star calls for tougher laws on revenge porn after intimate video leaks online
Israel-Gaza conflict: President Obama presses Netanyahu to call ‘immediate and unconditional’ Gaza ceasefire
Iraq crisis: End 'very near' for Christianity after Isis takeover, says Bishop
The secret report that helps Israelis to hide facts
A day in the life of Vladimir Putin: The dictator in his labyrinth
Were 'Poor Doors' added to mixed developments so wealthy residents don't have to go in alongside social housing tenants?
Arizona execution lasts two hours as killer Joseph Wood left 'snorting and gasping' for air
Opponents of Israel's military operation in Gaza are the real enemies of Middle Eastern peace
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Massive rise in sale of British arms to Russia
£45000 - £50000 Per Annum + excellent benefits package: Clearwater People Solu...
£21000 - £23000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Copywriter - London As a Copywrite...
£15 - £18 per hour: Randstad Education Nottingham: As a result of our successf...
£15 - £18 per hour: Randstad Education Nottingham: Randstad Education are succ...