Vowing to make every effort to secure release of detained ex-army chief and their defeated presidential candidate Sarath Fonseka, Sri Lankan opposition parties on Wednesday launched an aggressive campaign to collect 10 lakh signatures for the purpose.

“The signature campaign began this morning at J R Jayawardenapura Centre here,” General Secretary of the main opposition United National Party (UNP), Tissa Attanayake, said.

He said the opposition parties were aiming at collecting 10 lakh signatures to press for the release of Gen. Fonseka, who was arrested last week on conspiracy charges.

Mr. Attanayake also said the UNP and supporting parties have issued an appeal to the government to restore the security for opposition MPs in the run-up to the April 8 parliamentary polls.

He warned that the government would be held responsible if any untoward incident takes place that endangers the life of the lawmakers during the election campaign.

“While the gun-totting bodyguards are protecting many of the ruling MPs and the ministers, the security of the opposition leaders and MPs have been either reduced or removed” after Parliament was dissolved earlier this month, Mr. Attanayake told reporters.

Meanwhile, some opposition leaders and MPs are planning to move court to have their security restored in the run-up to the general election; days after the government withdrew it on the ground that Parliament had been dissolved.

Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) Deputy General Secretary Nizam Kariappar said on Monday that his party would seek legal redress to have its leader Rauff Hakeem’s security restored.

“The government had (earlier also) removed his security when he resigned from Parliament in 2008 to contest the Eastern Provincial Council election. However, we went to court and got his security restored. We will do the same this time too,” the Daily Mirror quoted Kariapper as saying.

Democratic People’s Front (DPF) leader Mano Ganeshan and UNP parliamentarian Wijeyadasa Rajapaksa were also planning to file fundamental rights applications in this regard, it said.

Mr. Rajapaksa said he was under threat, and this was another reason why he needed security.

Some MPs, including UNP’s Jayalath Jayawardene, have already appealed to police chief Mahinda Balasuriya to restore their security immediately.

Opposition parties argued that the government had not withdrawn or scaled down security provided to Cabinet, non-Cabinet and Deputy Ministers and MPs of the ruling UPFA.

Many of the UPFA members hold ministerial portfolios, a key strategy followed by President Mahinda Rajapaksa to prevent dissidence as several opposition lawmakers had earlier crossed over to the ruling alliance.

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