With less than four weeks to go for the January 26 Sri Lankan presidential poll, charges and counter-charges are being traded and both sides are claiming growing support.
While the ruling combine led by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is seeking a second term, secured the backing of a senior former parliamentarian of the ultra nationalist Janatha Vimukthi Perumana (JVP) who crossed over to its side, the Opposition threw a challenge at the President to take his main opponent and the Opposition consensus candidate, retired General Sarath Fonseka, to court on charges of corruption.
Pledging to work for the re-election of Mr. Rajapaksa, the former JVP MP, Anurudha Polgampala, told a news conference here on Sunday that despite the plans and strategies adopted by the United National Party-JVP combine, Mr. Rajapaksa would emerge victorious by an overwhelming majority.
The promises made by General Fonseka at his maiden rally in Jaffna on Saturday raised several eyebrows. He pledged to get Palaly declared as an international airport, reassess the high security zones in the peninsula, expedite resettlement of nearly three lakh war displaced and release suspected LTTE cadres held without evidence.
However critics were quick to point out that as the Commander of Jaffna, it was the retired General who was adamant in the continuation of the high security zones and in fact it was his insistence on retaining these zones that paved the way for the ultimate breakdown of talks initiated after the 2002 Norwegian-brokered ceasefire between the LTTE and the then government led by Ranil Wickremesinghe.
“Things now changed”
In his speech, Mr. Wickremesinghe told the meeting that President Rajapaksa thought he could win with just Sinhala votes, but things had now changed with Gen. Fonseka as candidate and the Tamil votes matter.
A comment on the website transcurrents ( http://www.transcurrents.com/) under the title ‘Promises Galore by Gen. Fonseka wooing Tamil voters in Jaffna’ says: “In an ironic twist of fate Sarath Fonseka, the man who refused to dismantle high security zones in Jaffna during the Oslo-brokered ceasefire in 2002, performed a neat somersault in 2010 by promising to remove high-security zones in North if elected President.