"Firing, shelling -- many, many people have died ... A lot of dead were left on the road." Another survivor, Krisha Duray, recalls "running and running" to escape shelling by both the Sri Lankan military and the Tamil Tiger rebels, who waged a bloody 25-year war.
In this election, the United National Front for Good Governance led by the UNP of Prime Minister Wickremesinghe emerged as the single largest party with 106 seats, 7 seats short of an overall majority in the 225-member Parliament, which is elected through an open list system of proportional representation.
The UNP won 5,098,916 votes or 45.66% of the total vote.
On a downward swing of 17.95%, the UPFA lost 49 seats from the last election where it had won 144 seats or 60.33% of the total vote.
Sirisena had replaced Rajapaksa as the leader of both the SLFP and UPFA after the presidential election, but the latter and his loyalists were successful in transforming the UPFA campaign in the parliamentary election into a Rajapaksa comeback bid.
"I hope my visit today can help begin a process of national recovery, renewal and reconciliation for all Sri Lankans," Ban said in a written statement issued Friday.
"That is why I am here." He said he would urge the government to expedite the screening and processing of refugees and ensure that displaced camps have adequate supplies of food, medicine and water.
After Sirisena won the presidential election in January with the support of the common opposition led by the United National Party (UNP), he appointed the then Leader of the Opposition Wickremesinghe as the Prime Minister of a minority government.
That government was appointed for the sole purpose of enacting the reforms outlined in the common opposition’s 100-day programme.
Rajapaksa stood as a parliamentary candidate (unprecedented for a former President) and the entire UPFA platform was saturated with his regime’s policies and personalities.
Premised on the assumption that the January defeat was a mere aberration, their strategy was to force Sirisena to appoint Rajapaksa as the Prime Minister after winning a parliamentary majority.
After all, a constitutional settlement addressing the challenge of ethnic and religious pluralism, especially, has eluded Sri Lanka throughout its post-colonial history and political opportunities as historic and as momentous as the present one have been squandered repeatedly in the past.