A turning point in Sri Lankan human rights?

So here they are at last: The Sri Lankan Presidential Elections.They are all set for tomorrow and previews were plastered all over today’s papers.After decades of conflict that “ended” last year with the comprehensive defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, commonly known as the Tamil Tigers, could the elections mark the break through for human rights that the country desperately needs?Given the Sri Lankan authorities’ not-so-great record on human rights, we at Amnesty have given them a little nudge on what the key issues are in a new ten-point appeal to the candidates.There’s enforced disappearances, the lack of media freedoms, a weakened judiciary, a human rights commission that is lacklustre at best, the death penalty, 11,000 suspected Tamil Tigers being held in detention, oh and the small matter of over 100,000 civilians being held in camps or reliant on the government for shelter – a vast majority of whom have little access to medical supplies, security, education or freedom of movement.In a country dominated by the Sinhalese majority most of these human rights abuses are directed at the Tamil minority who live in the north and east of the country. So it is with a small degree of irony that it looks like they will hold the key to who wins tomorrow’s election as The Independent reports today.Not that their choice is great. The front runners are the current incumbent, President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who has spent most of the campaign reminding anyone who will listen that he was solely responsible for the victory over the Tigers, and his former Army Commander and Chief of Defence Staff, retired General Sarath Fonseka, who is saying pretty much the same thing.Who knows, perhaps even at this late stage they might just hold out an olive branch to the Tamil community and begin the long process towards re-uniting Sri Lanka and delivering peace to this corner of Asia.The omens are not great. By Thursday Amnesty had had reports of 600 cases of violence connected to the elections including five murders and five attempted murders of political activists – that figure had risen to nearly 800 by the weekend according to the Times.

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