by MONITOR

DEMOCRACY comes in all shapes and sizes -- some of them unattractive.
Having finally brought the Tamil Tiger's insurgency to an end last year Sri Lanka's president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, called an election which he won recently by a large margin over Sarath Fonseca, the commander of the Sri Lankan army which delivered the death blow to the country's Tamil community. Comrades in arms until last year, Rajapaksa and Fonseca were bitter enemies in the election and after it -- once the result had been declared and despite his convincing victory Rajapaksa found it necessary to order 100 troops to arrest Fonseca on various charges of which the most serious was an allegation that he planned to assassinate the president and take power himself.

After the economic depredations caused by the tsunami of 2004 and made worse by the cost of the prolonged civil war, Sri Lanka needs a period of internal stability to harness the considerable talents of its people to recovery.

Instead Rajapaksa seems intent on suppressing human rights and free speech among those who disagree with him. The parliamentary elections due in April might help to redress matters, but only if they are conducted in a free and fair way, which seems unlikely. Rajapaksa's term of office as president is seven years -- long enough for him restore his country to economic and democratic health, but only if he gives up his autocratic and sometimes vindictive style of government.