Within hours of the announcement of the date for the Sri Lankan presidential polls, the former Army chief, General (retired) Sarath Fonseka threw his hat into the political ring.

In an appearance at a lawyers’ forum here on Friday night along with United National Party (UNP) leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, General (retired) Sarath Fonseka declared he would be contesting in the January 26 presidential polls against the incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa as a common candidate of the ultra-nationalist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), the UNP and other parties that have backed his candidature.

The UNP, main opposition party led by the former Prime Minister, Mr. Wickremesinghe, made the formal announcement on the presidential nominee of his party on the 55th birth anniversary of the late LTTE chief, Velupillai Prabakaran.

Mr. Wickremesinghe is also the leader of the newly-floated 18-party United National Front (UNF). Ironically, exactly a year ago Mr. Samaraweera had accused General Fonseka of being a racist and manipulating statistics on the causalities of the rank and file of the Tigers in a bid to bolster the sagging morale of the military and leading the people of the island nation up the garden path.

Meanwhile, Mr. Rajapaksa declared that he would never hesitate to front up to challenges or take any decisions which would ultimately benefit the people and the country.

He was speaking at the inauguration of the construction of Sri Lanka’s second international airport, a Chinese-aided project, in Mattala in his home district Hambantota.

Chinese Ambassador to Sri Lanka Yang Xiuping was present on the occasion. Ms. Xiuping said that as a long-standing friend of Sri Lanka, her country was prepared to back such mega development projects. “A friend in need is a friend indeed,” she added.

In his address, General (retired) Fonseka also said he had agreed to the UNP’s and JVP’s demand to work towards the abolition of the executive presidency, one of the conditions for their support to his candidature.

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