In a NYT op-ed, co-chairman of the International Crisis Group Chris Patten discusses the choices facing Sri Lankan voters during the 2010 presidential elections, in the wake of violent ethnic conflict.
Pity the poor Sri Lankan voter. As presidential elections loom on Jan. 26, the public is faced with a choice between two candidates who openly accuse each other of war crimes.
The current exchange of charges and counter-charges between retired Gen. Sarath Fonseka and President Mahinda Rajapaksa must be particularly confusing to those Sri Lankans who consider both to be war heroes rather than war criminals. Many from the ethnic Sinhalese majority feel that, regardless of the human costs in the last months of the long-running civil war that ended last year, both leaders deserve credit for finally finishing off the terrorist Tamil Tiger rebels.
With the Sinhalese nationalist vote thus split, the two candidates are focusing their energies on winning the votes of the country's minority ethnic Tamils - which is surely one of the stranger political ironies of early 2010. After all, both General Fonseka and Mr. Rajapaksa executed the 30-year conflict to its bloody conclusion at the expense of huge numbers of Tamil civilian casualties.