Amid strike threats by several trade unions demanding pay hike and heightened political activity ahead of the scheduled general elections, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has said that he will counter attempts to create anarchy in the island nation.

At a function of the Private Tea Factory Owners’ Association here on Monday, Mr. Rajapaksa asserted that he was prepared to defeat any conspiracies such as creation of artificial food shortages in the country, on behalf of the people.

The comments assume significance as President Rajapaksa is to announce of the dates for the general election and a possible presidential election at the convention of the ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) on November 15.

The former Sri Lankan Prime Minister and opposition leader, Ranil Wickremesinghe, who heads the newly-floated 12-party alliance, has openly come out in support of Chief of Defence Staff Sarath Fonseka contesting the presidential election. He is expected return to the island nation on Wednesday after consultations with New Delhi on the general situation in Sri Lanka.

In his speech, Mr. Rajapaksa stressed that the economy should be strengthened to protect and promote the country’s sovereignty. “All forces which we had focused on the eradication of terrorism have now been diverted to national development,” a report posted on the Presidential Secretariat quoted him.

Mr. Rajapaksa said the government gave equal attention to the eradication of terrorism and the country’s development while managing the country’s economy effectively. “We had to manage the perception of the international community towards the eradication of terrorism,” he said.

He told the gathering that when he took over as President in November, 2005 he had given an assurance to the people that terrorism would be eradicated in the country and an environment would be created where people of all communities could live in peace. “I was determined to fulfil that pledge and now people can talk of national freedom,” he said.

Mr. Rajapaksa said the government had to continue the efforts to eradicate terrorism amidst various challenges.

Separately, a group of Tamil National Alliance (TNA) local body leaders, the Tamil Eelam Liberation Organisation, the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress and the opposition United National Party met Mr. Rajapaksa to express “their support to the programme of the UPFA government”.

“The entire country is free of terrorism, not only the North and East. Therefore, it is the duty of all to secure that freedom,” a statement by Mr. Rajapaksa’s office quoted him as telling the group.

Meanwhile, Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) announced that as of November 5, a total of 1,875 loans to the value of Sri Lankan Rupees 264 million had been disbursed for the benefit of war torn people in the north.

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