Scenes From The Sri Lankan Election Campaign


On 26 January Sri Lanka held its first presidential election since the government of incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa declared that the war against Tamil separatists was over. The campaign was marred by widespread violence, and media coverage of it operated in the shadow of the ongoing intimidation and assassination of journalists. These images of the campaign are from independent Sri Lankan media organisation Perambara.


Piliyandala, 24 January, 2010: Incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa is seen addressing the crowd from behind bullet proof shielding during the final rally prior to the election. Rajapaksa faced stiff opposition in the form of former general Sarath Fonseka, seen by many Sri Lankans as one of the architects of the Government’s victory over the separatist LTTE. (Photo: Contributor/Perambara) 



Piliyandala, 24 January, 2010: Supporters of President Mahinda Rajapaksa are seen during his final rally. Following Tuesday’s election, the Sri Lankan electoral commissioner announced that Rajapaksa had won 57.9 per cent of the vote. (Photo: Contributor/Perambara)



Colombo, 23 January 2010: Opposition presidential candidate Sarath Fonseka addresses the crowd behind a bullet proof glass at his final rally. Fonseka resigned his post as chief of defence staff to run for president, alleging that Rajapaksa had tried to sideline him within the military after hostilities with the LTTE had ended. On Wednesday the electoral commissioner declared that Fonseka won 40.1 per cent of the vote. Yesterday Fonseka and a group of supporters were surrounded by Government soldiers at his Colombo hotel. Fonseka says he now fears for his life, and plans to contest the results of the election. (Photo: Amantha Perera/Perambara) 



Colombo, 23 January 2010: At Fonseka’s final rally before the poll, a boy holds a sign of a swan, Fonseka’s campaign symbol. All candidates in the election have a symbol that appears next to their name on the ballot to help distinguish between them. (Photo: Amantha Perera/Perambara)



Colombo, 13 January: Journalist Jayaprakash Tissainayagam walks out of the Supreme Court after finally being granted bail. He had been in jail since March 2008, when he was arrested for writing articles that criticised the Government’s treatment of Tamils. (Photo:Sanjaya Nallaperuma/Perambara) 



Colombo, 8 January 2010: Participants place candles during a vigil held to mark the one-year anniversary of the murder of Lasantha Wickrematunge, the late editor of the Sunday Leader. Wickrematunge, who was a strong critic of the Rajapaksa administration, was shot as he was driving to his office by unidentified gunmen in the early hours of the morning on 8 January 2009, and succumbed to his injuries a few hours later. (Photo: Sanjaya Nallaperuma/Perambara)



Colombo, 8 January 2010: Staff members of the Sunday Leader shed tears of remembrance for their slain editor at a memorial ceremony on the anniversary of his death. In the climate of violence against journalists critical of the Government, Wickrematunge had anticipated the attack and wrote his own obituary. (Photo: Dinidu de Alwis/Perambara)



Colombo, 21 January 2010: A sign is tied to a barricade during a protest held in front of Rupavahini Corporation, Sri Lanka’s largest state-funded television station. Media activists and employees of state media institutions held the protest against the abuse of state media in the run-up to the elections. Some of those present were protesting the actions of their own employers and wore masks to protect themselves from reprisals. (Photo: Dinidu de Alwis/Perambara) 



Colombo, 20 January 2010: Around 80 people detained under suspicion of being LTTE cadres are released at the Colombo Magistrates Court. (Photo: Sanjaya Nallaperuma/Perambara) 



Colombo, 15 January 2010: A young boy takes part in a protest demanding an end to election violence and a 30 per cent representation in parliament for women. Currently in Sri Lanka only around 5 per cent of the parliament is female, despite having been the first country in the world to have elected a female prime minister, in 1960. (Photo: Tarika Wickremeratne/Perambara) 



Ampara, 5 January 2010: Members of the indigenous Veddah community take part in a rally held at Ampara in support of Sarath Fonseka’s bid for the presidency. Tension had erupted in Ampara over the removal, by Fonseka’s supporters, of posters and banners supporting President Mahinda Rajapaksa the night before. Despite the presence of riot police called in as a precaution, clashes were reported there that morning. (Photo: Chandana Liyanarachchi/Perambara) 



Colombo, 7 January 2010: Police officers rush to put in place temporary barricades to block the path of a student protest, while media personnel squeeze through. University students and monks protested the arrest of monk and activist Dambara Amila, which they alleged was politically motivated. (Photo: Dinidu de Alwis/Perambara) 



Colombo, 5 January 2010: Buddhist monks protest in Colombo against the arrest of Dambara Amila, alleging political victimisation. The Government said the arrest had no political motive and was based on public complaints to police. (Sanjaya Nallaperuma/Perambara) 


Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.