Battle for Sri Lanka

Alex Perry in Time:

There are not many elections where candidates campaign behind razor wire, surrounded by 14 bodyguards and watched over by helicopter gunships. But then there are not many elections that could make the difference between war and peace. To press his case in this week’s vote for Sri Lanka’s presidency, opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe has flown a plane of reporters north to an army base at Palaly, a peninsula of shrimp ponds and sandy jungle which is both a spiritual home to the island’s Tamil minority and a key battleground for its Tamil guerrillas. While Wickremesinghe chats amiably to the soldiers, there is no question of him leaving the base and meeting Tamils. “I just don’t think it’s possible,” he says, gesturing over a machine-gun nest at the no man’s land of empty, bullet-riddled farmhouses that separates him from Jaffna, the nearby Tamil capital.

After half a century of hostility between the majority Sinhalese and the minority Tamils, two decades of civil war, and three years of a steadily collapsing ceasefire, Sri Lanka could use someone prepared to take a few bold steps. So it’s depressing to learn that Wickremesinghe—widely considered the candidate most capable of delivering peace—expects to be cut down if he ventures into the unknown.

More here.