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Sri Lanka crackdown shreds hopes of reconciliation

February 25, 2010 (AFP) - In the afterglow of his thumping re-election last month, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse promised to build a strong and unified country that would consign its 37-year civil war to the past.
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Instead, his government launched a sweeping crackdown that has seen the man he defeated at the polls, former army chief Sarath Fonseka, taken into military custody, and other opposition figures and senior journalists arrested.
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The clampdown disappointed those who had hoped Rajapakse would be magnanimous in victory, with the opposition labelling it a purge against anyone deemed to have supported Fonseka's challenge for the presidency.

Accusations of coup plots and other conspiracies have fuelled a belief among some observers that Rajapakse, despite routing his rival at the ballot box, remains paranoid about dissent and intent on augmenting his already substantial executive powers.
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"What I see is a slide into autocratic rule," said the head of the private Centre for Policy Alternatives think-tank, Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu.
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"There is a stifling of any kind of opposition and the arrest of Fonseka is the most conspicuous aspect of that," he told AFP.

James Manor, a Sri Lanka analyst

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