Sri Lanka’s presidential elections were marred by violence in the first hours of voting after gunmen opened fire on buses carrying Muslim voters, Reuters reported on Saturday November 16th.
Police officials confirmed that the buses, which were carrying hundreds of Muslim residents from the north-west town of Puttalam, were hit by attackers.
"The gunmen opened fire and also pelted stones. But we have no reports of casualties,” according to a police official in Tantirimale, 150 miles (240 km) north of the capital, Colombo.
The country is already struggling to recover from the Easter Sunday attacks on hotels and churches that have damaged its tourism-dependent economy.
The elections will be a tight race between former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who oversaw the military defeat of Tamil separatists ten years ago, and Government Minister Sajith Premadasa.
Rajapaksa is playing the security card after the terrorist attacks, claimed by Isis, that targeted the majority Sinhalese Buddhists in April killing more than 250 people.
Premadasa has focused on the economy and living conditions as he sought to invigorate the countryside with promises of free housing, school uniforms for students and sanitary products for women, touching on a topic rarely discussed in public anywhere in South Asia but which has drawn women to his rallies.
Some voters said that the most important problem in Sri Lanka is the widespread corruption and the lack of accountability of politicians.
About 16 million people are eligible to vote, with the ballot allowing voters to choose up to three candidates in order of preference.