The Sri Lankan government on Tuesday announced that presidential and general elections would be held before April.

“A formal announcement would be made at the session of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party on the 15th of next month,” said Minister of Media Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena at a media briefing here.

General election before April, possibly preceded by the presidential election, was anticipated after the ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA), led by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, secured an absolute majority in the Southern Provincial Council elections on Sunday.

The term of the present Parliament is scheduled to end in April next year and in an interview to The Hindu (published on July 6, 7 and 8), Mr. Rajapaksa had declared that he would seek re-election before the parliamentary polls.

Under the Constitution, the President can call for presidential election once he or she has completed four years in the six-year tenure. Mr. Rajapaksa completes his four years in the third week of November. In the event of an early presidential election, the person elected to the office of the President would take oath of office and secrecy only after the completion of the six-year term of the sitting President.

At a rally on Tuesday, Mr. Rajapaksa said the public mandates obtained by the UPFA government reflect that the people of the country were not ready to betray the victories of the nation.

He told the gathering that it was the objective of his government to create sustainable development not only in north and east but also in every part of the country.

Separately, the Defence Ministry said 22 LTTE suspects had been charged with extorting money from the Tamil expatriates in France in a Paris court on October 12.

“In addition to the LTTE group, their front working in France called the Tamil Coordination Committee was also included in the case. The LTTE and their front went on trial for the operation of an extortion racket among the expatriate Sri Lankan Tamils living in France to fund their separatist struggle in Sri Lanka,” it said.

“The court was told that the groups extorted five million Euros [$7.4 million] from the country’s Tamils. There are 75,000 estimated Sri Lankan Tamils living in France.

“The court was told that the LTTE or Tamil Tigers exert a controlling influence on the Tamils by imposing a revolutionary tax on the 1.5 million world Tamil diaspora based on their household income and size.”

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