COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s main opposition today said it feared President Mahinda Rajapakse would use the military to remain in power if he was defeated in next week’s elections.

Opposition candidate Sarath Fonseka accused the government of pushing senior army commanders to appear on state-run television to express their public support for Rajapakse.

“By getting very senior officers to side with the president, the government is preparing the ground to hold on to power by using the army to suppress the people’s will,” Fonseka’s spokesman Anura Kumara Dissanayake told reporters. Rajapakse called Tuesday’s vote two years ahead of schedule to benefit from the government’s defeat of the separatist Tamil Tiger rebels after decades of ethnic warfare on the island.

But he faces a surprise rival to power in Fonseka, the former general who led the troops to victory in May.

The two fell out over who deserved credit for crushing the rebels, and allegations that Fonseka was himself planning a coup after being sidelined. Military spokesman Udaya Nanayakkara denied that senior officers were being dragged into the election battle. Meanwhile, UN chief

Ban Ki-moon is alarmed by the growing violence in Sri Lanka, including the reported slaying of political activists, ahead of the upcoming

presidential elections, his spokesman said yesterday.

“The Secretary General is concerned about the growing violence in the lead-up to the presidential election in Sri Lanka, including the reported killing of political activists,” Martin Nesirky said in a statement.

Ban urged all Sri Lanka parties and their supporters “to show restraint and refrain from violence, to adhere to the electoral laws and rules, and to avoid provocative acts throughout the election period and its aftermath.” He stressed that the peaceful conduct of the election is of the “highest importance for long term peace and reconciliation in Sri Lanka.” Sri Lanka’s independent election Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake was quoted as saying yesterday that he had stopped issuing directives to the police and other

government authorities who disregarded his orders for conducting a free and fair election.

Police have reported at least four campaign-related deaths and have also received complaints of more than 700 poll-related incidents of violence across the island.