Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, on a maiden visit to Jaffna town on Sunday, promised a “fair and reasonable political solution” to the ethnic conflict. The visit comes a day before he is to release his election manifesto for his second term bid in the January 26 poll.

Days earlier, the common Opposition presidential candidate, the retired General Sarath Fonseka, secured the backing of the post-Prabakaran Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and, in the course of campaign rally in Jaffna, promised a number of measures to garner Tamil votes, including re-assessment on High Security Zones (HSZ) in the eastern and northern provinces.

Hence, the impact of Mr. Rajapaksa’s visit is being watched with keen interest by political and diplomatic observers. Reports from Jaffna said Mr. Rajapaksa did not elaborate on the nature of a political solution he has in mind to resolve the ethnic question that has evaded a solution.

Addressing a large gathering at the Durriapah Stadium in Tamil, Mr. Rajapaksa promised that in the coming days Tamils in the North would be able to enjoy the same kind of freedom as their counterparts in the rest of the island nation. He announced that soon voters in the province would be able to elect their representatives to the Northern Provincial Council.

By all accounts, the coming poll is mainly a contest between Mr. Rajapaksa and Gen. Fonseka. A few months ago, re-election of Mr. Rajapaksa was considered easy.

However, the emergence of the retired General as the rallying point for most of the Opposition parties has made the election a tough fight for the President. Since both the chief contenders are from the majority Sinhalese community, the focus is on the choice of Tamil and Muslim voters.

In the course of his Jaffna visit, Mr. Rajapaksa visited the famous Hindu temple at Nallur and called on the Bishop. He told the Bishop that accelerated plans were under way to resettle the displaced people in the HSZ and that the devotees could freely pray in the area.

On his arrival, Mr. Rajapaksa accompanied by the Commanders of the three armed forces, visited the northern military headquarters at Palaly in the Jaffna Peninsula.

He told the troops and officers at the base there, “I will not allow anyone to betray the hard earned war victory and will never allow any person to give life for terrorism.”

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