TIME Sri Lanka

Former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa Defeated in Parliamentary Elections

Final Day Of Campaigning In Sri Lanka Ahead Of General Election 2015
Buddhika Weerasinghe—Getty Images Former Sri Lankan president and parliamentary candidate Mahinda Rajapaksa attends his party's rally on the final day of the election campaign on August 14, 2015 in Kandy, Sri Lanka.

This is the second defeat in an election this year for the authoritarian former president

Former Sri Lanka president Mahinda Rajapaksa’s bid to become the country’s next prime minister appeared to have failed as the results of this week’s parliamentary election continue to be counted Tuesday evening, with the ruling United National Party (UNP) leading by a one-seat margin with 18 out of 22 districts having been declared.

The UNP is unlikely to gain a full majority, however, and will have to form a coalition government with support from other parties, Reuters reported.

Rajapaksa appeared to have thrown in the towel early Tuesday, telling Agence France-Presse that he was conceding defeat a few hours before the official results were set to be declared, and saying he would continue to work as an opposition member of the South Asian island nation’s legislature, reported the French news wire.

“We have won eight districts and the UNP (ruling United National Party) has 11 (out of a total of 22),” Rajapaksa told AFP. “This means we have lost. It was a difficult fight.”

However, the 69-year-old politician soon backtracked through his official Twitter account, saying he was waiting for the official result. Rajapaksa did, however, tell Reuters that it was “unlikely” he would lead the government through the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) led by his Sri Lanka Freedom Party.

Political analysts and sources within the UNP say their party, represented by incumbent prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, will fall just short of the 113 out of 196 seats needed to secure a majority, but should be able to align with other political parties. The Sri Lankan legislature contains 225 seats, with the remaining 29 allocated by proportional representation.

Rajapaksa had been plotting a political comeback ever since he was dealt a shock defeat in the midterm presidential election he called earlier this year, losing to former ally Maithripala Sirisena to end to his decade-long tenure at the country’s helm.

Sirisena decided soon after to dissolve the parliament and hold fresh elections — the conduct of which on Monday was hailed as one of the most peaceful that the island nation has seen in recent years — with Rajapaksa eying a return to political power as Prime Minister even as an investigation into alleged corruption during his tenure as president as well as murder allegations against his son continue to swirl.

Sirisena, who as president has the power to appoint the prime minister from the winning party, had sent a sharp letter to Rajapaksa last week saying he would not allow him to take up the top post even if his party won. A possible return to political office by the former president has been treated with significant consternation by many Sri Lankans, with the head of the country’s central bank saying he would resign if the strongman was elected.

But that possibility is becoming increasingly unlikely as the results trickle in, and Rajapaksa, in all probability, has been dealt a second consecutive defeat.

“I invite all of you to join hands,” current prime minister Wickremesinghe said in a statement as the results continued to accumulate. “Let us together build a civilised society, build a consensual government and create a new country.”

TIME Sri Lanka

Five Things to Know About Sri Lanka’s General Elections

Sri Lanka's former president Rajapaksa, who is contesting in the upcoming general election, speaks during the launch ceremony of his manifesto, in Colombo
Dinuka Liyanawatte—Reuters Sri Lanka's former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is contesting in the upcoming general election, speaks during the launch ceremony of his manifesto, in Colombo July 28, 2015

Hawkish former President Mahinda Rajapaksa eyes a return to frontline politics

On Aug. 17, seven months after Maithripala Sirisena pulled off a stunning electoral victory over Mahinda Rajapaksa to become Sri Lanka’s President, the island nation will go to the polls to choose a new Parliament. The contest will help determine the future of Sirisena’s drive to reform Sri Lanka after nearly a decade of increasingly autocratic rule under Rajapaksa, who is seeking a comeback to the political frontline. Here are five things to know as campaigning ends and Sri Lankans prepare to cast their ballots.

1. Until November, Rajapaksa seemed all but certain to charge to a third term as President

January’s result surprised not only Rajapaksa, who only months before seemed secure in his position at the top of Sri Lankan politics, but also his successor. A former Rajapaksa ally, Sirisena only defected from the ex-President’s side in November. “For a short period after being elected, I was not really certain that I am the President,” Sirisena told TIME in a rare interview in April. “Similarly, the Rajapaksa family … must be thinking, ‘What happened here?’”

First elected in 2005, Rajapaksa won a second term in 2010, cashing in on widespread support among the country’s Sinhalese Buddhist majority months after leading the Sri Lankan army to victory over separatists from the country’s Tamil minority to end a decades-long civil war. The U.N. estimates that as many as 40,000 Tamil civilians may have died in blood-soaked final weeks of the conflict. With his popularity soaring in the majority community, Rajapaksa embarked on a project to beef up the country’s already powerful executive presidency. Meanwhile, members of his extended family popped up in official posts around the Sri Lankan state, despite allegations of widespread corruption. Civil society activists and dissidents complained of intimidation and spoke of a climate of fear. Against this troubling backdrop, and with no viable opposition figure in sight, Rajapaksa appeared to be heading for another victory when he called early presidential elections in January.

Then out of nowhere came Sirisena, who promised to dismantle executive presidency and devolve power to Parliament. The country’s Tamil and other minorities that had been sidelined under Rajapaksa backed him, as did a significant section of the Sinhala Buddhist majority that had grown tired of Rajapaksa’s strongman ways. Holding out the hope of a move toward national reconciliation, he also vowed to setup an independent domestic enquiry into war-time rights abuses.

2. Since taking office, Sirisena been constrained by a divided Parliament

Although January’s election gave him the keys to the presidency, Sirisena has been hamstrung by a lack of support in Parliament, with many members of his Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) remaining loyal to their former leader, Rajapaksa. Teaming up with Ranil Wickremesinghe, the leader of the much smaller United National Party, to form a coalition government, Sirisena promised to implement an ambitious 100-day program when he took office, covering, among other issues, the devolution of power from the presidency, an overhaul of the electoral system and a new right to information (RTI) law. He told TIME that he would also announce the domestic enquiry into war-time rights abuses by the end of June. But his 100-day agenda remains incomplete. He has succeeded in imposing some checks on the presidency, but electoral reform and the proposed RTI bill had to be shelved. Meanwhile, the government is yet to announce the details of the domestic probe.

3. Now Rajapaksa wants to return as Prime Minister

As Sirisena struggled to implement his agenda, Rajapaksa returned to his home in southern Sri Lanka to plot a comeback, meeting supporters and visiting Buddhist temples while his allies in Colombo resisted the new government’s attempts to reform with protests and no-confidence motions in Parliament.

In early July, soon after Sirisena set the ball rolling for the Aug. 17 election by dissolving the legislature, Rajapaksa announced that he would contest a seat under the banner of the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA), a coalition of parties led by the SLFP. His aim is to become Prime Minister.

Throughout his campaign, he repeatedly denied allegations of corruption against his family and invoked the military victory over the Tamil separatists that won him re-election in 2005, portraying himself as a force for stability. “This is an election that will decide the entire future of our country both in economic and political terms. The 2005 presidential election was a turning point in our history,” he told the Island, a local newspaper, on Aug. 11. “If we had not won that election the whole history of this nation would have been different.” In a bid to fan nationalist sentiments in the majority community, he added: “Today, we don’t have a stable government, national finances are in a major crisis and separatist forces are once again destabilizing the country.”

The prospect of Rajapaksa’s return to the political fray is an unsettling one for many — particularly activists and dissidents who had faced intimidation or arrest during his time in power. “It is a really scary thought,” said human rights activist Ruki Fernando, who was detained under the Rajapaksa regime while investigating the arrest of a Tamil campaigner against political disappearances. “There are incidents of intimidation, of police preventing protests and arrests, but the intensity of such actions and the numbers have reduced [since Sirisena came to power].”

4. But the revival of a murder probe has turned up the heat on Rajapaksa’s campaign

On Aug. 10, police in Sri Lanka exhumed the remains of former national rugby player Wasim Thajudeen, whose charred body was recovered from his burned-out car in May 2012. Initially reported to have died in a car crash, a Sirisena government spokesman claimed recently that Thajudeen had been tortured and murdered by members of Rajapaksa’s presidential security guard.

The case was reopened this year amid allegations that the rugby player’s death might be linked to a dispute between him and one of Rajapaksa’s sons — a claim that the former President denies. “First, they tried to portray us as thieves and when they have no proof of corruption to produce after seven months of investigations, they are now trying to say that we murdered people,” he told the Island. “This is why bodies are being exhumed in the middle of an election.”

But the case could be “potentially very explosive,” Paikiasothy Sarvanamuttu, a Sri Lankan political analyst and director of the Colombo-based Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA), told Reuters. “It might go right to the top.”

5. As campaigning ends, the outcome remains uncertain

As election day nears, Sirisena’s staff is preparing for a hung Parliament, according to an official who spoke to TIME. Minority votes are likely to go in favor of Sirisena’s supporters, while one recent CPA opinion poll showed that although Rajapaksa retained the backing of many Sinhalese Buddhists, with 36% favoring him as the next Prime Minister, a significant section of the majority community also supported his chief rival and Sirisena’s ally, Ranil Wickremesinghe, who was backed by nearly 32%, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Meanwhile, although he failed to stop Rajapaksa from securing a UPFA nomination, Sirisena has sharpened his attacks on his former boss in recent days, issuing a letter saying that he would not appoint him as Prime Minister even if the UPFA coalition wins a majority. “There are eminently suitable seniors in the party from whom I can pick a Prime Minister,” he wrote, according to excerpts translated into English by the Press Trust of India news agency. “Not only you [sic] held two terms you deprived the party seniors opportunities by trying to stay on forever.”

Whether Sirisena could carry out this threat likely depends on the level of support his rival receives. And campaign posturing aside, whether or not the Rajapaksa is able to fulfill his ambition for a comeback will ultimately hinge on the verdict of the same constituency that sent him packing in January — the Sri Lankan people.

TIME Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan Sports Star’s Body Exhumed in Murder Probe Involving Ex-President’s Son

SRI LANKA-CRIME-RUGBY
LAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHI—AFP/Getty Images Anti-Rajapakse activists carried placards denouncing the former leader and his administration as the remains of Sri Lankan rugby player Wasim Thajudeen leave the burial ground of the Dehiwela mosque in Colombo on August 10, 2015, after the body was exhumed to be sent to the Judicial Medical Officer.

Though the death of Wasim Thajudeen was initially ruled an accident, suspicions of foul play have resurfaced

Correction appended: August 11, 2015.

The body of a rugby player who represented Sri Lanka was exhumed by authorities in the capital, Colombo, on Monday in order to check for signs of torture, as part of an investigation into his death three years ago, the BBC reports.

Wasim Thajudeen was found dead inside a burning car in Colombo in May 2012. The case was initially ruled an accident, the BBC says, but reopened this year over allegations that former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s youngest son Yoshitha — with whom Thajudeen was reportedly in a dispute over a mutual love interest — had him killed.

Thajudeen’s body was unearthed from a Muslim burial ground on the outskirts of Colombo in the presence of a judge as protesters gathered outside to shout anti-Rajapaksa slogans.

New evidence shows that the car used in the abduction belonged to the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society, but was being used at the time by a charity of then First Lady Shiranti Rajapaksa, the BBC says.

Police cited medical examination reports that said Thajudeen’s body bore torture marks along with broken bones and teeth.

“The body had been wrapped in a plastic bag so it is well preserved, and we hope to be able to finish our work very soon,” chief judicial medical officer Ajith Thennakoon said.

The Rajapaksa family strongly refutes the allegations and says the investigation is a politically motivated attempted to smear the former President in the run-up to next week’s parliamentary elections.

The former President is seeking a political comeback as the small island nation’s Prime Minister after being ousted in this year’s presidential election following almost a decade in power, but continues to be under scrutiny for alleged corruption during his two terms at the country’s helm.

“We totally deny this. Even without doing a proper investigation they are pointing the fingers at the Rajapaksas,” his eldest son Namal told the BBC. “They began this investigation just ahead of the election so we all know it’s politically motivated to target us.”

Correction: The original version of this story misstated the suspected role of a car belonging to the Sri Lankan Red Cross Society. New evidence suggests it was used to abduct Wasim Thajudeen.

TIME Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka’s Ousted President Seeks a Comeback

Mahinda Rajapaksa
Dinuka Liyanawatte—Reuters Former Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa sits next to his wife Shiranthi Rajapaksa during a religious ceremony at his residence in Medamulana, Sri Lanka, on July 1, 2015.

Mahinda Rajapaksa says he will contest August elections that could determine the fate of his successor's reform drive

Six months ago, Maithripala Sirisena pulled off a stunning electoral upset in Sri Lanka, defying expectations to defeat incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa in a national election. Sirisena, a former Health Minister for Rajapaksa, rode to victory supported by a diverse political coalition united, above all, in its desire to displace the Sri Lankan strongman accused of increasingly autocratic rule.

Rajapaksa, who in 2009 ended a three-decade-long civil war with separatist Tamil guerrillas seeking an independent homeland in the north of the country, depended on the country’s Sinhala Buddhist majority to stay in power. Sirisena, himself a Sinhala Buddhist, was backed by minority Muslims and ethnic Tamils sidelined under Rajapaksa, along with many Sinhala Buddhists tired of the heavy-handed former leader. “The Mahinda Rajapaksa era is over,” Sirisena told TIME after his victory earlier this year.

His former boss, however, refuses to go away. With characteristic theatricality, he summoned the media to his ancestral home in southern Sri Lanka on Wednesday to outline his ambitions for a comeback. Standing at a podium installed near a tree that formed the backdrop for his late father’s addresses to his supporters — Don Alvin Rajapaksa was a prominent politician from the region — the former President said he would contest a seat in parliamentary elections set for August after Sirisena dissolved the Sri Lankan legislature on Friday. His goal: to become Prime Minister (and thorn in his former ally’s side).

“For the sake of the country … we will contest the upcoming election,” he said. “I ask all patriotic forces from all parties to join us in this struggle to regain the integrity of our motherland.”

But although the setting was rich with political imagery — before making his way to the podium, and with the media at hand, he listened to a Buddhist sermon at his family home — Rajapaksa was more subdued than usual as he made the much anticipated announcement. And he failed to answer a critical question: Under which political banner will he seek a parliamentary seat?

Both Rajapaksa and Sirisena belong to the Sri Lankan Freedom Party (SLFP), a section of which remains loyal to the former Sri Lankan leader. But Sirisena, who became the head of the party when he was elected President, has thus far resisted allowing Rajapaksa to run as an SLFP candidate. Rajapaksa didn’t specify whether he would continue to seek an SLFP ticket or if he would try to run as part of the broader United People’s Freedom Alliance, a political coalition led by the SLFP and chaired by Sirisena.

“It will be an uphill task for [Rajapaksa] to become a real force because right now there is no clear sign whether he has a party machinery to back him,” Jehan Perera, a political analyst and executive director of the Colombo-based National Peace Council, told TIME.

The elections will help determine the fate of Sirisena’s reform drive. In January he won with promises to, among other things, dismantle the executive presidency and devolve more power to the legislature by strengthening the Prime Minister’s office. His rise also brought hopes of reconciliation in a country marred by a deep ethnic divide. As President, Rajapaksa brazenly rejected international calls for a thorough and impartial investigation into allegations of human-rights abuses by the Sri Lankan army in the final months of the civil war. Sirisena campaigned with a promise to hold an independent domestic probe into the claims. The international community was supportive after he came to power, with the U.N. deferring the release of its own report into the matter until later this year to give Sirisena time to put together a domestic process.

To implement his promises, Sirisena appointed Ranil Wickremesinghe, a veteran of Sri Lanka’s fractious political scene and leader of the Untied National Party, as Prime Minister to head a minority coalition government. With Wickremesinghe at his side, he succeeded in introducing some checks on the power of the presidency, including bringing back a two-term limit for incumbents that had been scrapped under Rajapaksa.

But with the Rajapaksa faction in Parliament acting as a roadblock, he had to discard his ambition to abolish its executive powers altogether. Lacking a two-thirds majority in the legislature, he also had to shelve a planned overhaul of the voting system and a right-to-information law to make government more transparent.

Sirisena now needs a Parliament that will be sympathetic to their cause, with enough MPs allied with the President to push through reforms. Rajapaksa’s candidacy means that the final outcome could hinge on the country’s minorities, says Perera.

Although Rajapaksa is unlikely to achieve his ambition to become Prime Minister without the backing of the SLFP, he could nonetheless split the Sinhala Buddhist vote if he and his supporters break away and run independently. In January, although he lost the presidential election, he attracted the majority of Sinhala Buddhist ballots and he remains popular in southern Sri Lanka.

“The minority parties could hold the key to gaining a majority in Parliament,” explains Perera. “I don’t think any [single] party will gain a majority in Parliament. We will have a situation where the major parties will be jockeying for support from the smaller parties.”

TIME Travel

The Best Small Hotels Around the World

From Colombia to Chicago

Choosing a tiny hotel will certainly ensure you with that extra attention (or in the case of The 404 in Nashville, extra privacy), as well as more authentic, creative amenities. We’ve rounded up a dozen with incredible appeal—from elephant rides on a private beach in Sri Lanka to complementary Apple TV in Chicago to archery practice outside a restored Airstream trailer from the ‘50s.

  • Little Island Lighthouse in Vesterålen, Norway

    01-little-island-lighthouse
    Gabi Reichert / Littleisland Lighthouse

    If visiting an old European lighthouse, going whale-watching and gazing up at the Northern Lights are on your bucket list, check into Norway’s Little Island Lighthouse, which lets you do all three in a single day. Upon arrival, the caretaker will lead you to the lighthouse’s separate residence. The accommodations come with a guest library and two bedrooms that can each sleep three. In addition to watching the pods of Orcas break the surface from the cliff, a trip in summer also means exploring the island’s super cool, underground cave.

  • Iniala Beach House in Phuket, Thailand

    02-iniala beach house
    Iniala Beach House

    Akin to vacationing in a curated art collection, this personal beach home was expanded and reimagined in 2013 by the biggest global names in art and design. It includes three villas and a penthouse option for rent.

    From the Collectors Villa, where the Campana Brothers of Brazil created sculptures made of thousands of broken tea cups, to the Carpenter’s Chamber filled with its magnificently carved wooden bed by Irish artist Joseph Walsh, no two spaces are alike. However, every one comes with a spa treatment room and a personal infinity pool. Bonus: all of that furniture and art is for sale.

  • The Gideon Ridge Inn in Blowing Rock, North Carolina

    03-gideon-ridge-inn
    Gideon Ridge Inn

    A few miles beyond the historic, mountain town of Blowing Rock, in the pristine nature of The Blue Ridge Mountains, the 10 rooms of The Gideon Ridge Inn feature four-poster beds, fine Swiss soaps, ultra-plush bedding, and French doors that beg to be opened to let the cool morning air flow in off the stone porches.

  • Casa Noble Villas in Tequila, Mexico

    04-casa-noble-villas
    Casa Noble Villas

    What’s better than sipping fine tequila at its source? Knowing you are only feet from your own personal hacienda for the night. Casa Noble has become synonymous with producing a great spirit, but they are quickly becoming as famous for their attention to design detail and warm hospitality at the adjoining four distillery villas. Expect terra cotta floors, rock-wall murals, hand-woven blankets and traditional artwork.

  • Topia Inn in Adams, Massachusetts

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    Moroccan Room by Bea Merry / Courtesy of Topia Inn

    There’s a lot to love at this quirky B&B, which that celebrates a separate culture in every room. The Moroccan room at Topia Inn is the collaboration of a video producer and a costume designer. Featured: gleaming tile floors, rich tapestries and a massive spa tub with air-jets and chroma-therapy. Meanwhile, in the Aloha room, the floating bed, surrounded by immense clay flowers, is the focal piece. What’s more, down the road you’ll find Mass MoCA, America’s largest contemporary art museum, plus an 11-mile bike path along rivers, lakes and the mountain passes.

  • Hicksville Trailer Palace in Joshua Tree, California

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    Courtesy of hicksville.com

    This fun retreat offers nine fully-restored Airstream trailers from the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s, plus a funky little cabin to rent. Amenities include archery, a swimming pool, and Ping Pon. This year, there’s also The Sideshow, a newly acquired, vintage trailer that formerly served as a traveling one-man circus. Within: a ceiling that resembles a big top and compartments where the owner once kept his curios and potions.

  • Tcherassi Hotel & Spa in Cartagena, Colombia

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    Tcherassi Hotel

    A restored, 250-year-old colonial mansion in the heart of Cartagena features seven stately bedrooms, with designs curated by famed Colombian fashion designer Silva Tcherassi. She’s used original wood and stone alongside her modern fabrics, and added accents like the vertical, 3,000-plant garden, three swimming pools and an Italian-inspired restaurant. The 1,200-square-foot Gazar room in particular offers the ultimate in opulence, boasting a private rooftop pool, sun deck and sweeping views of Cartagena.

  • The Villa at Taprobane Island in Sri Lanka

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    Courtesy of Taprobane Island / Vladi Private Islands

    You’ll have to rent the entire island to stay in one of the five bedrooms in this 1920s mansion. The $2,200-a-night price comes with 360-degree ocean and shoreline views from sprawling porches, home-cooked Indian cuisine by a private chef and elephant rides on the beach sunset.

    Read the full list here. This article originally appeared on Travel + Leisure

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TIME Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka’s New Leader to Dissolve Parliament and Launch War Crimes Probe

Maithripala Sirisena Beats Opposition To Become Sri Lanka's New President
Buddhika Weerasinghe—Getty Images Sri Lanka's newly elected president Maithripala Sirisena (C) prepares to take oath as he is sworn in at Independence Square in Colombo on January 9, 2015 in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Maithripala Sirisena talks to TIME in a rare interview

Sri Lanka’s new leader plans to dissolve the country’s Parliament in May, setting the island nation on course for general elections in late June or early July — around the same time that he plans to announce details of a probe into allegations of human rights abuses during Sri Lanka’s long civil war, he told TIME in a rare interview.

Maithripala Sirisena had earlier indicated that he would set up the probe within a month of a visit to the U.K. in March. But, speaking to TIME in his first interview with an English-language news organization since taking office in January, he said details of the planned investigation would be announced by the end of June, just as the country heads into early general elections.

“We have informed the U.N. that we’ll have a very strong internal mechanism to look into this and we’ve asked for advice and consultancy through the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights,” he says.

Sirisena replaced the autocratic Mahinda Rajapaksa in January, after defecting from the then President’s side in November to become a surprise but unifying opposition candidate. He has pledged to weaken Sri Lanka’s powerful executive presidency, telling TIME: “It’s a major problem for the country that power has been centralized. Power must be distributed.”

Separately, the country’s new Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, told TIME that Sri Lanka had revived efforts to set up a South Africa-style Truth and Reconciliation Commission, an idea first mooted under Rajapaksa. He faced international pressure for failing, in the words of a report by a former U.N. human rights chief, to ensure an “independent and credible” investigation into allegations of human rights abuses at the end of Sri Lanka’s decades-long civil conflict with separatists from its Tamil minority in 2009.

“We’ve reopened the talks with South Africa and this time they’ve been positive,” says Wickremesinghe, who was sworn in after Sirisena’s election victory on Jan. 8. He said the government hopes to share proposals for a Sri Lankan truth commission with the U.N. Human Rights Council in September. Proposals are also in the works for a domestic judicial process to deal with the allegations.

Earlier, speaking to the BBC Sinhala service in London during a visit to the U.K. in March, Sirisena, who like Rajapaksa belongs to Sri Lanka’s Sinhala majority, had indicated that the domestic probe into the allegations would be set up within a month.

Amid speculation that his ascent to the Presidency might spark a shift in the country’s foreign policy, with a move away from China as he revives ties with India and the West, Sirisena insisted that Sri Lanka had an “absolutely non-aligned [foreign] policy.”

Under Rajapaksa, China built closer ties with Sri Lanka, providing billions of dollars in loans. Last year, the Sri Lankan government under Rajapaksa allowed a Chinese submarine to dock twice in Colombo.

“We do not have any enmity toward anybody; we extend the hand of friendship to all countries,” says Sirisena.

Sirisena’s point was reiterated by the country’s new Prime Minister, who said efforts by Sri Lanka’s new leaders to cultivate friendlier ties with India and the West didn’t constitute a “tilt away from China.” “The fact is we moved away from everyone else, leaving only China. We antagonized the West, we antagonized India. You can’t carry on like this. Sri Lanka needs the West, it needs India, it needs China,” says Wickremesinghe.

See the full story in this week’s TIME International.

— With reporting by Amantha Perera/Colombo

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: April 6

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. A new program will recruit and train inspiring leaders to be principals at high-poverty schools. No education background required.

By Catherine Candisky in the Columbus Dispatch

2. Even with rising prosperity, seventy percent of deaths in Sri Lanka are from preventable diseases. It’s time for a new kind of care.

By Sandya Salgado at the World Bank

3. To protect ourselves from bioweapons, we may have to reinvent science itself.

By Patrick Tucker in Defense One

4. In Europe today, Russia is demonstrating its mastery of hybrid warfare. The U.S. and NATO are far behind.

By Nadia Schadlow in War on the Rocks

5. Encryption might not matter to most Americans, but it is a crucial tool for reporting the news.

By Kelly J. O’Brien in Columbia Journalism Review

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Sri Lanka

This Man Survived a Tumble Off a 4,000 ft. High Cliff in Sri Lanka

Lucky isn't the word

A man miraculously survived a tumble off the 4,000 foot “World’s End” cliff in Sri Lanka on Saturday when his fall was broken by a tree.

Dutch honeymooner Mamitho Lendas, 35, said he fell over the edge when trying to take pictures of his new wife. He landed in vegetation growing out of the cliff face, after falling for about 130 ft.

“I fell down backwards two times, and then I sit in bushes for like three-and-a-half hours. The longest three-and-a-half hours of my life,” he told a group of reporters.

Soldiers used ropes to stabilize Lendas and lift him to safety. They then carried him for three miles before he could be driven to the hospital, where he was found to have no major injuries, AFP reports.

The World’s End cliff is one of Sri Lanka’s top tourist attractions.

In 2011, an Australian tourist named Christopher Pilther died after he fell off of the cliff, also while trying to take photographs.

TIME Australia

Australia Court Rules the Month-Long Detention of Migrants at Sea Was Legal

Protesters hold placards at the 'Stand up for Refugees' rally held in central Sydney
David Gray—Reuters Protesters hold placards at the 'Stand up for Refugees' rally held in central Sydney Oct. 11, 2014

The case brought attention to Australia's controversial immigration policy

Australia’s High Court ruled Wednesday that the nearly month-long detention of 157 ethnic Tamils from Sri Lanka aboard a sea vessel last year was legal under the government’s Marine Powers Act.

The narrow 4-3 decision means that the detainees, of whom 50 were children, will not receive damages for their alleged false imprisonment, according to the judgment summaries.

Hugh de Kretser, executive director of Australia’s Human Rights Law Centre, which formed part of the Sri Lankans’ legal team, expressed his disappointment with the decision.

“Incommunicado detention on the high seas is a clear breach of Australia’s international human rights obligations,” he said in a statement. “Unfortunately, today’s decision confirms that our domestic law allows the Government to breach those obligations.”

Liberal Party MP Scott Morrison, who held the post of immigration minister when the Sri Lankans were detained, tweeted his approval of the decision.

The Sri Lankans had boarded a boat in India last June but were intercepted 16 days later in the Indian Ocean by an Australian customs ship.

After weeks of being held on the ship, the group was transferred to the Curin detention center in Western Australia because the Indian government said they would consider taking them back, according to Reuters.

When the group refused to meet with Indian officials, they were moved to another immigration center, this time on the tiny South Pacific island nation of Nauru, where they will remain until their status as refugees is decided.

The ethnic Tamils were heading to Australia to claim refugee status, claiming they had a well-founded fear of persecution in Sinhala-majority Sri Lanka following the end of the island-nation’s bloody civil war in 2009.

The case highlights Australia’s controversial immigration policy in which immigrants are often processed at offshore camps in Papua New Guinea, Christmas Island and Nauru.

Canberra says the restrictions are in place for the safety of immigrants risking their lives to reach its shores by sea.

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