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Page last updated at 11:53 GMT, Monday, 8 March 2010

Sri Lanka voices: 'Fractured democracy'

The arrest a month ago of Sri Lanka's former army chief and defeated presidential candidate, Gen Sarath Fonseka, along with some of his supporters, has raised fears among rights groups in the country.

The authorities accuse the general of having worked with what they call anti-government forces.

Here people in Sri Lanka discuss the latest political developments as they prepare for general elections in April.

NIRMALAN DHAS, PSYCHOTHERAPIST, COLOMBO
Nirmalan Dhas

There is a palpable feeling that something serious has gone wrong. When a government decides to arrest the main opposition candidate, I read such an action as a clear indication of a serious deterioration of the democratic process.

My reaction is one of sadness as I am old enough to remember the times when Sri Lanka - then Ceylon - was governed by people who were liberal, tolerant and committed to democracy. I long for a return to this situation where one could speak openly and critically without fearing detention, torture, disappearance and murder.

By all accounts Sarath Fonseka has never been a pleasant human being. However I do not think that the charges against him are relevant to the situation.

This arrest sends a very clear message to the country that anyone who disagrees with the policies of the president and his party will be repressed.

I strongly suggest that the president discuss this matter with the parties who support Fonseka and do whatever is required to fix the democratic process which appears to have been seriously fractured.

ROHAN MUNASINGHE, 39, SENIOR LECTURER, MORATUWA
Rohan Munasinghe

Most moderate Sri Lankans are now fed up with the Rajapaksa - Fonseka conflict making news daily. Rajapaksa has clearly shown his plans for the future of the country and despite the unproven charges of corruption, people have chosen him as a president for the next few years.

I feel sad about Fonseka, but he is his own enemy. I have observed his disrespect for the governing system, his huge ego, bad language and loose temper. The charges against him seem to be genuine. He, like everyone else, has to face the law of the land.

Sri Lanka has a very weak opposition at present. The opposition has failed to win the hearts and minds of the people. They are short-sighted, driven by anger, unable to talk politely on stage.

I don't think that what has happened is a serious problem. Our country is now in peace and is politically stable. There are major development projects already underway.

Therefore, I would like to believe that Sri Lanka will have a good time ahead with Mahinda Rajapaksa. This is a great opportunity for him to carve his name in the history book as the greatest leader of Sri Lanka. He wouldn't want to lose this golden opportunity by abusing his powers.

ISHAN JALILL, 22, STUDENT, COLOMBO

I am shocked by what happened after the election. When I say I am shocked, I am not going to say I am surprised. I actually expected this from a ruler with dictatorial tendencies.

General Fonseka's "arrest" was a politically-motivated move. He was taken like an animal and treated as guilty until proven innocent.

When the election result was announced, I was surprised. I thought Gen Fonseka would win. We heard reports, although not in the mainstream media, that there was vote-rigging.

I voted for Fonseka. Not because I liked him. He used to make hardline statements like "the Sinhalese are the only majority in this country and nobody else can enjoy equal rights with them". I don't agree with that.

The present regime is beginning to act like the military junta in Burma

We are Muslim Malays who've lived in this country for several generations. The Sinhalese quite like Malays and and we do enjoy equal rights, but I feel really sorry for the Tamils. They were in this land for much longer than us, but they have not been given a proper solution to their grievances.

I knew that there would have been some kind of oppression with him in charge. But he was well-known for his non-corruption policies and we are sick of corruption. Many people, like me, voted for him because he was the lesser evil.

I really love this country, but I am not optimistic about the future. I see nepotism, corruption and a president who's growing more and more powerful. The country is going from bad to worse. The present regime is beginning to act like the military junta in Burma.

SHIRAN W, 30, PROJECT OFFICER, COLOMBO

Gen Fonseka's arrest is not acceptable. It is clearly based on a personal rivalry - the government still hasn't issued a statement detailing the exact charges against him.

They say, this is a military case. But as far as I know, you can't arrest anybody under martial law after the person has retired. Even if they had genuine charges against him, they should have arrested him a long time ago.

There is now proper low now, there's only the law of the jungle

The thing is, President Rajapaksa didn't have any competition from other opposition leaders until Gen Fonseka joined the presidential race.

Then the president tried everything possible to defeat him, including the use of state media.

Everyone who values democracy in this country is worried that the president is getting too powerful. He thinks he is the king, all his relatives hold positions of power.

The way things are going, I have no hope for the future of this country. There is no proper low now, there's only the law of the jungle.

LAL KARUNARATNE, 58, TOURISM INDUSTRY, MARAWILA
Lal Karunaratne

I supported Gen Fonseka during the election and I voted for him together with my whole family. But I have changed my views of him.

I have no more sympathy for him because of the way he's been lying and betraying the country for his selfish political agenda.

His arrest is a foolish act as it turns him into a real hero. If there were irregularities, he should have been charged before his candidacy for the presidential election.

There has been lots of corruption in Sri Lankan politics for the last decade. The president is so powerful - he appoints the chief justice himself, the cabinet and parliament are all full of his supporters, people who worship him.

The way things are going, I have very little hope for the future. We depend on aid and if we lose it, there'll be nothing left for us.



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