Sri Lanka President marks one year in office amidst continued violence

Nov 19, 2006 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapakse came to power promising a new approach to peace. But as he marks the end of his first year in office Sunday, the country continues to be wracked by violence, pushing its defence budget to a record high. The International Monetary Fund warned last week the country could be headed for an economic crisis if the seemingly unending conflict was not peacefully resolved soon.

But as he marks his the end of his first year in office Sunday, the country continues to be wracked by violence, pushing its defence budget to a record high.

When he ran for the presidency, Rajapakse was widely regarded as a hardliner and dubbed the “war candidate” by Tamil rebels.

He promised a new approach to bring an “honourable peace” to the tropical island nation racked by more than three decades of ethnic conflict that has claimed over 60,000 lives.

But after winning the election, he said he would instead persist with the Norwegian-backed peace initiative supported by his predecessor.

Since then, 3,422 people have been killed in ethnic violence, defence ministry figures show.

The violence resulted in a 45-percent increase in defence spending to 1.29 billion dollars in the 2007 budget.

The presiden