Bomb blasts shadow bitter Sri Lankan presidential poll

(From left) Dharmasri Kumaratunga, Director - Payments and Settlements, Central Bank; Nanda Fernando, Managing Director, Sampath Bank; and Tharaka Ranwala, Head of Operations and Group Chief Marketing Officer, Sampath Bank

January 26, 2010 (AFP) – Pre-dawn bomb blasts in Sri Lanka’s Tamil heartland escalated tensions as the country went to the polls Tuesday in the first presidential election since the end of its 37-year civil war.

The bomb attacks on the house of a ruling party activist in the northern peninsula of Jaffna underlined the bitter nature of the contest between President Mahinda Rajapakse and his main challenger, former army chief Sarath Fonseka, which threatens to bring more instability to the violence-torn nation.

“We have a complaint that two bombs were thrown at the home of Subramaniam Sharma, an organiser for the Sri Lanka Freedom Party,” Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) spokesman D. M. Dissanayake said.

It was not immediately clear who carried out the attack, he said.

Last May, Rajapakse and Fonseka wiped out Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tiger rebels, who had fought for a Tamil homeland since 1972, in a military campaign since dogged by allegations of war crimes.

But the one-time close battlefield allies have turned into enemies after Fonseka, a 59-year-old political novice, decided to challenge his former boss at the ballot box on an anti-corruption platform.

In the acrimonious run