Besides getting endorsement from the leader of the 12-party opposition front led by Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe, the man who escaped death in the hands of a LTTE woman suicide bomber in April 2006 has the indirect backing of the ultra-national Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP). JVP, which backed Mr. Rajapaksa in the 2005 presidential election, in the last few months has been openly campaigning for his ouster.

Following a call for “work to rule” by JVP-affiliated trade unions, from Wednesday, Mr. Rajapaksa early this week had said he would counter attempts to create anarchy in the island nation.

Strengthen economy

At a function on Wednesday, 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.

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 and an environment 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’s managers have been working feverishly to counter any threat to his rule and this was evident on Wednesday when 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 the President to express “their support to the programme of the UPFA government”.

A Minister told Parliament last week that Mr. Rajapaksa is not deterred by the plans of the opposition to put up any candidate including General Fonseka.

The determination of the dominant opposition parties to go the whole hog against Mr. Rajapaksa came to fore in November with the birth of the 12-party United National Front (UNF) led by the main opposition party United National Party (UNP) with the explicit objective of combating the “corrupt and despotic Rajapaksa family regime” and switch over to Indian-style parliamentary democracy.

The majority of the opposition parties is of the view that given the popularity of General Fonseka as a war hero, he is the ideal candidate to take on Mr. Rajapaksa. The new grouping included the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, Democratic People’s Front and the splinter group of the ruling party led by the former Foreign Minister, Mangala Samaraweera.

At the launch ceremony of the new formation Mr. Samaraweera had said: “Historians would record today’s event as a great milestone in Sri Lanka’s history. We have formed the United National Front, in order to defeat the forces of the Rajapaksa regime, which managed during the past four years to drag the country in to a very dangerous precipice.”

Mr. Samaraweera said the group, led by the leader of the UNP Ranil Wickremesinghe, would provide equal representation for all communities in the island nation.“

However, a section of the Tamil parties including the TNA is yet to finalise strategy to deal with the emerging political scenario. The dilemma before the Tamil parties was best articulated in the response of Mano Ganeshan on Groundviews website ( www.groundviews.org).

He says, “Until then we will say that if his [General Fonseka] answers satisfy us we will decide positively. It is logical. Isn’t it? First let him answer. We are also discussing with the main opposition for alternative candidates. We are also discussing among the Tamil and Muslim parties. There are some efforts made from the government side too for some discussions with me,” said Mr. Ganeshan.

Mr. Ganeshan said a “deadly” silence was maintained by all Tamil leaders since General Fonseka’s name was proposed as the common opposition candidate. “But we spoke at the appropriate time and initiated a national dialogue in the media, street corners, households, offices, among the political parties etc. A national dialogue on ‘Sarath Fonseka and Tamil people’”.

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