Peace, economy, tsunami aid the key issues in Sri Lanka poll

Sri Lanka’s war-battered and tsunami-hit economy and the peace process with the Tamil Tiger rebels will be key issues when the island-nation goes to the polls Thursday to elect a new president. Sri Lanka’s war-battered and tsunami-hit economy and the peace process with the Tamil Tiger rebels will be key issues when the island-nation goes to the polls Thursday to elect a new president. The think-tank the Centre for Policy Alternatives said Sri Lankans were likely to vote for lower costs of living and an end to the conflict that has killed more than 60,000 between 1972 and 2002, when a truce went into effect.

Amid a field of 13 candidates there were two main contenders, both from the majority Sinhalese community. Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse is backed by Marxists and Buddhist-Sinhalese ultranationalists, while opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe has the support of many minority Tamils and Muslims.

Here are their positions on key issues facing voters:

PEACE PROCESS: The premier is against the Norwegian-backed peace process with Tamil Tigers and wants to radically change it, although he has not spelt out details. He regards a truce with the rebels as a betrayal of