COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - Sri Lanka’s president dissolved Parliament yesterday to make way for spring elections a day after authorities arrested a key opposition leader, crippling the only serious threat to the ruling party’s stifling grip on power.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s decision follows his sweeping victory at the polls last month over his former army chief, General Sarath Fonseka, who had defected to the opposition after helping to end the country’s quarter-century civil war. The military arrested Fonseka on Monday on sedition charges.
If last month’s presidential poll is anything to go by, the upcoming parliamentary contest will be another bitter race between the government and the opposition, which says it is being harassed. Human rights groups have echoed those accusations.
Fonseka’s arrest will probably serve as a warning to others who might seek to challenge the ruling party’s effort to cement its grip on power in the parliamentary poll. Rajapaksa’s ruling coalition is hoping to secure a two-thirds majority in the Legislature, giving them virtually unfettered control of this island nation off the southern tip of India.
“They did not want [Fonseka] to be in the campaign as some sort of a magnet for the opposition,’’ said Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, executive director of the Center for Policy Alternatives, a local public policy group.