Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama in his first post-election visit to Jaffna has appealed to the Tamil Diaspora to help the government develop Jaffna into a commercial hub.

The visit and his message are to be seen in the backdrop of the fractured verdict in the just-concluded presidential election.

Though Mr. Rajapaksa has won with a thumping majority, defeated candidate Sarath Fonseka has polled a lot of votes in most of the districts of North and East as well other parts dominated by Tamils and Muslims.

Political and diplomatic observers here of the view that the poll verdict is a clear sign that the island nation continues to be polarised eight months after the military defeat of the LTTE and demise of its leader Velupillai Prabakaran.

“To build on the military gains, Mr. Rajapaksa has to reach out to the Tamils with a credible political solution to the ethnic question to address the legitimate aspirations and grievances of the Tamils and Muslims,” a political commentator who did not want to be named told The Hindu.

Rehab programme

Another batch of 56 ex-LTTE members who have completed rehabilitation programme was handed over to their parents.

According to the Defence Ministry, they crossed over to the government-controlled areas and surrendered to the Army during the height of the war and underwent rehabilitation at the Nawasenapura Rehabilitation Centre at Welikande.

Meanwhile, media groups charged the government with detaining a pro-Janatha Vimukthi Perumana senior editor and shutting down his newspaper for backing retired General Fonseka.

Press owners, editors and rights bodies issued a joint statement saying the closure of the pro-opposition Lanka weekly and the detention of Chandana Sirimalwatte was a “fatal blow to media freedom and democracy”.

“Promises made during the presidential campaign to defend press freedom and speed up the investigations into assassinations of journalists have evaporated within days,” it said.

On charges made by the Human Rights Watch about the alleged blocking of some of the websites perceived to be pro-Fonseka, Head of the Policy Research and Information Unit of the Presidential Secretariat, Lucien Karunanayake, said, “I am not aware of the sites blocked but the logical question to ask is, which state would give rein to any free media that publishes rumours which are socially corrosive, individually defamatory with the intent of destabilising the state.”

Following the outcry of the international rights group accusing the authorities of harassment of critical media, the President on Sunday revoked the decision to cancel the visa of the Swiss journalist who covered the elections.

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