Colombo, Feb. 10 (Reuters): Thousands of Sri Lankans, protesting the arrest of losing presidential candidate Sarath Fonseka, clashed with government supporters today, a day after parliamentary elections were called.
Tensions have risen on the island since former army commander Fonseka was arrested on Monday by military police on charges of engaging in politics against President Rajapaksa while still in uniform. We came here to do a peaceful protest against the arrest of (Fonseka), but government thugs attacked us, said K.H. Indrani. They stoned us and attacked with clubs and even threw glass bottles at us in front of these police force, she said, pointing at riot police.
At least eight people were injured in the clashes outside the island nations Supreme Court, officials said. Police fired tear gas to disperse the crowds. The protests erupted a day after Rajapaksa dissolved parliament and called early elections.
Analysts said the Opposition will try to use the arrest of Fonseka as a rallying point to regroup in the parliament election election set for April 8, but it would be a long haul. I dont see the agitation going forward aggressively, said Kusal Perera, a political analyst at Centre for Social Democracy.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon raised Fonsekas arrest with Rajapaksa and expressed concern about events in Colombo, the UN said today. In a telephone call last night, Ban also agreed with Rajapaksa that Lynn Pascoe, head of the UN political department, would visit the island soon.