The newly-floated United National Front (UNF), led by the former Sri Lanka Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, challenged Mahinda Rajapaksa on Wednesday to go ahead with his planned early presidential poll if he was confident of his popularity.

Hours ahead of a Cabinet meeting Presided by Mr. Rajapaksa which agreed on the dates for the presidential and parliamentary election, UNF senior leader Tissa Attanayake told a media briefing that the alliance which started with 13 constituent parties recently had already risen to a platform of 18.

The UNF has been negotiating with the former Army Chief, Sarath Fonseka, to stand as their consensus candidate against Mr. Rajapaksa. However, there is no clarity yet on several aspects like whether he would be an independent or a party candidate and the agenda on which he would seek office.

Managers of Mr. Rajapaksa, who celebrated his 64th birthday on Wednesday and completed four out of the six-year term of his Executive Presidency, believe that he is invincible be it General Fonseka or any other candidate.

Thousands of party workers and the leaders of ruling party had unanimously given thumbs up for the election at the national convention of his party held on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Governor of the Northern Province G.A Chandrasiri said the decision to free the citizens of the north from the formality of security clearance from the defence authorities to travel out is a “bonanza” from the President.

“This development comes as the security situation is stable in the peninsular following the defeat of the LTTE. With the opening of the A9 road any Sri Lankan can travel to Jaffna from Colombo or vice versa without the security clearance certificate that was required earlier.”

According to officials, any Sri Lankan citizen can travel to Jaffna or to Colombo from Jaffna using public transport.

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