Rajapaksa, Fonseka Battle It Out In Cyberspace
By Munza Mushtaq
As if the conventional mud slinging campaigns were insufficient, the country’s two top presidential contenders, Mahinda Rajapaksa and Sarath Fonseka, have unleashed their political war in cyberspace by launching countless websites and fan pages to ensure their victory at the January 26 election.
This is the first time in Sri Lanka’s political history that frontline politicians are using the internet extensively for their individual political campaigns.
Rajapaksa and Fonseka have both launched their official websites (www.mahinda2010.lk / www.sarathfonseka.com), Facebook fan pages, Twitter and various other pages popular on the internet for the upcoming election.
The Sunday Leader has also stumbled upon several websites tasked with carrying out mud slinging campaigns against rival contenders on the world wide web. www.sfbalakaya.com, which claims to be the ‘official website of General Sarath Fonseka’ is one such bogus site, and is being maintained by a rival political group.
Visitors who initially believe this to be official website of Fonseka soon realise it is a bogus website targeting the former Army Commander due to the extensive mud slinging the website indulges in, including slanderous cartoons poking fun at Fonseka and news stories, all negative, of him.
“Groups with close links to powerful individuals launched various scathing attacks on the internet against the common opposition presidential candidate (Fonseka) soon after he announced his candidature for this month’s elections, and this ‘sfbalakaya’ website is one such internet mud slinging campaign,” a spokesman from Fonseka’s media unit said.
Meanwhile, Fonseka’s official website has dedicated a special page for President Rajapaksa titled ‘exposed’, which has alleged that the President was instrumental in committing various corrupt deals.
Despite the existence of several election monitoring bodies in the country which monitor various violations and violence related incidents, the monitoring is yet to extend to cyberspace.
On Facebook, despite anti-Fonseka pages in the inception, the official Sarath Fonseka fan page has proved to be the most popular in comparison to President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Facebook fan page. Fonseka’s Facebook fan page as of Thursday evening had a total of 52,272 fans while President Rajapaksa’s Facebook fan page consisted of only 38,711 fans.
However despite the lower number of fans on his fan page, the administrators of Rajapaksa’s fan page have come up with a unique idea, which is to bring together all the Rajapaksa supporters of this page at an event in Colombo. However no date has been announced for this exercise.
Websites have also become a lucrative business ever since the date for the presidential election was set, with individuals registering websites under the names of the main presidential candidates and then selling them to interested parties for a massive US $ 1000 at least. On average, registering a basic website would cost between US $ 25 to US $ 100 only.
The government, which has a massive budget for advertising in comparison to Fonseka’s insignificant promotional budget, is using all methods possible to get the word out there by advertising on various local websites and even foreign websites such as news sites which are often accessed by Sri Lankans.
Both Rajapaksa and Fonseka are also seen on the popular youtube.com boxing it out in style in a one minute long video clip inside a boxing ring, with Elections Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake seen as the referee in the match.
The video is of course fake, with the faces of Rajapaksa, Fonseka and Dissanayake being superimposed onto the bodies of actual fighters/referee at an unknown match, but it goes to show the kind of political impact the main two presidential contenders have made, even in cyberspace.