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Post Civil War: Sri Lankans Vote For President


It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.


Good morning, Philip.

PHILIP REEVES: Good morning.

SHAPIRO: So is running in this election and what's the significance of the vote?

REEVES: As president, Rajapaksa ordered the army's successful offensive on the Tigers last May. As army chief, Fonseka carried it out.

SHAPIRO: Is there any indication of which of the two men is most likely to win?

REEVES: Sri Lankan's complain about rising prices and government corruption and also nepotism. Three of the president's brothers are highly placed in the government. General Fonseka's decision to run also changed the picture. He's expected to split the Sinhalese nationalist vote, which is interesting because it means, as you said earlier, rather ironically, that the vote by the Tamil minority now becomes very significant.

SHAPIRO: It's surprising to me that the Tamils are willing to vote at all for either of these men who were instrumental in suppressing the Tamils.

REEVES: On the other hand, they do have many grievances they want the government to address, such as rebuilding their shattered communities, rehabilitating the multitude of Tamils displaced by the war, some of whom who are still in camps, access to land, and the general need in Sri Lanka for some kind of reconciliation after so many years of conflict.

SHAPIRO: Well, this is the first peacetime vote Sri Lanka has had in nearly three decades. Give us a sense of what the scene is like Colombo. Has there been any violence? What do you see on the street?

REEVES: But security's extremely tight. There are 68,000 police out on the streets today, plus 25 army platoons. And all bars across Sri Lanka are closed for two days in a further effort to make sure that there's no unrest.

SHAPIRO: Thanks, Philip, and stay safe.

REEVES: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Philip Reeves is an award-winning international correspondent covering South America. Previously, he served as NPR's correspondent covering Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India.
Ari Shapiro has been one of the hosts of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, since 2015. During his first two years on the program, listenership to All Things Considered grew at an unprecedented rate, with more people tuning in during a typical quarter-hour than any other program on the radio.