10/10/2011, 00.00
SRI LANKA
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Rajapaksa’s UPFA wins most local councils, loses Colombo

by Melani Manel Perera
The capital goes over to the United National Party (UNP), the main opposition party. The Asia Human Rights Commission slams the authorities for trying to sweep under the carpet the violence that marred the poll.
Colombo (AsiaNews) – President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s United People Freedom Alliance (UPFA) scored a major victory in Saturday’s local elections, taking 21 out of 23 local councils. However, the gain is less impressive that one might expect, considering that the opposition United National Party (UNP) took the capital in a significant show of strength. However, four people died on voting day after protests against alleged abuses during the campaign turned to violence. All four of the dead were from the ruling party. The Sri Lanka Muslim Congress won a majority of seats on the Kalmunai Municipal Council.

Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra, a UPFA leader, was one of the people who died, killed during a gun battle with a rival group led by fellow UPFA member Duminda Silva. The latter is in hospital on life support. The other dead are Premachandra’s bodyguards and supporters.

The UNP has accused the government of trying to sweep the incident under the carpet even though government-issued weapons were used in the incident involving the two UPFA leaders. This behaviour creates “a very bad precedent,” said UNP general secretary Tissa Attanayake.

In fact, “There is no report of any warrant issued for the arrest of Duminda Silva or any others regarding the triple murder,” the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) said in a statement.

The first phase in Sri Lanka’s local elections was held in July. UPFA won on that occasion as well, winning 45 councils out of 65.

However, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) swept the country’s north and east, taking all 18 councils. Both areas were the main battlegrounds during the country’s civil war.
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