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Updated: November 16, 2009 01:31 IST

Most SLFP leaders, cadre favour early presidential poll

B. Muralidhar Reddy
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Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa waves to his supporters during the Sri Lanka Freedom Party's convention in Colombo on Sunday.
AP Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa waves to his supporters during the Sri Lanka Freedom Party's convention in Colombo on Sunday.

Sri Lankan President and leader of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) Mahinda Rajapaksa on Sunday announced that his party would soon decide on the wishes of the majority of SLFP leaders and cadre for a presidential election before the parliamentary poll due before April.

Addressing the 58th convention of his party here, a confident Mr. Rajapaksa left no one in doubt that he is least bothered at the prospect of Sarath Fonseka, the General who led the war against the LTTE and would prematurely retire on Monday, being fielded as a consensus Opposition candidate against him.

Mr. Rajapaksa ended the suspense on whether or not he would call for a presidential election after the Fonseka episode in a dramatic fashion by posing a question at the convention whether they wanted a presidential or a parliamentary election early.

The response was for a presidential poll. "You want me to cut short two years while the Parliament has a few months more. Good... I will put your request to the party to make a decision," Mr. Rajapaksa said.

The meet, called essentially to decide on dates for a general and possibly presidential election, was a mega affair, with thousands of party workers and 39 foreign representatives, including two Congress Rajya Sabha MPs.

Taking an indirect dig at General Fonseka, Mr. Rajapaksa said that when the notion to develop the country was set in motion, there could be patriots who could become traitors for political reasons. "Such elements will only honour the last wish of LTTE leader Prabakaran who wanted to divide the military and the people."

He asserted that he was not afraid to face an election and accused the Opposition of operating with "anti-national interests" and attempting to politicise the military. "The Opposition is so weak that it was now begging for a candidate to contest the election."

Under the Constitution, the President can call for a presidential election once the incumbent completes four years of the six-year term.

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