Peace, economy key issues in Lanka polls

Colombo, Nov 16 | Updated: Nov 17 2005, 06:18am hrs
Sri Lankas troubled economy and the peace process with the Tamil tigers will be the two main issues in Thursdays polls to elect a new president. Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse, who is backed by Marxist JVP and the ultra Sinhala Nationalist All Buddhist Monks Party, is offering a socialist welfare state and an end to privatisation.

In contrast, the former premier Ranil Wickremesinghe who is a favourite among the business community, is promising more market reforms and policies to attract foreign and local investments. The two also have divergent views on reviving the peace process. Rajapakse wants to completely overhaul the Norwegian-led peace initiative and wants to renegotiate the ceasefire that is in place since February 2002.

Wickremesinghe wants to revive peace talks with the tigers and have a peace deal within two to three years to turn the country into a federal state. He has said he wants an Indian model system of government. Both candidates have called for greater involvement of neighbouring India in both trade and political relations.