Sri Lanka on Friday said it does not give any credence to the 'palpable misinformation’ concerning alleged moves involving the United States, aimed at undermining the leadership of President Rajapaksa, and destabilising his government.
A statement put out by the Foreign Ministry said the matter figured when the U.S. Ambassador Ms. Patricia Butenis met Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama.
"Among the matters discussed were reports inimical to the bilateral relationship carried by some sections of the Sri Lanka media. The United States maintains that no room should be left for the creation of impressions that this reportage has any support extended by official sources.
"In response, Minister Bogollagama pointed out the vibrant free media culture prevalent in Sri Lanka which leads to a wide range of reportage. The Foreign Minister further referred to the amity and goodwill inherent in the longstanding Sri Lanka-U.S. bilateral relationship.
In this context, the Sri Lanka authorities do not give any credence to the palpable misinformation concerning alleged moves involving the United States, aimed at undermining the leadership of President Rajapaksa, and destabilising his Government."
The statement went on to quote the Minister as telling the envoy that Colombo valued the economic and political assistance afforded by the U.S. over the past several decades, for the development of the country.
The statement by the Ministry on 'palpable misinformation' about the supposed role of the U.S. in the internal affairs of the island nation in sections of the media assumes importance as the charge came from Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka’s Defence Secretary and brother of the President.
In his February 10 interview to the Singapore based Straits Times where he had talked about the alleged coup plans of the former Army Chief retired General Sarath Fonseka he had said, “We are 100 per cent convinced that western countries with vested interests were backing him. Even the U.S., and countries like Norway, spent lots of money on his campaign.
"I have proof of the Norwegian government paying journalists to write against the government. They have vested interests and used to support the Tamil Tigers in various ways. They also supported Fonseka to try oust the President."
The missions of the U.S. and Norway here had strongly refuted the charges made by the Defence Secretary that they were involved in funding the election campaign of the former Army Chief. "We would like to point out that the accusations made against Norway in the interview are not correct," the Norwegian mission had said in its statement.
Meanwhile, the Sri Lanka Election Commission on Friday began accepting nomination papers for candidates intending to contest for the April 8 general elections to elect a new parliament.
After the week-long process, the papers would be scrutinised and elections would be held to for 225 seats in the Parliament. Of this, 196 will be voted while the remaining 29 will be appointed from the National List provided by registered parties on the proportional representation basis.
According to the Election Commission officials, the independent groups have already begun placing their deposits and till Friday nine independent groups had given their deposits.
The mainstream opposition parties have parted ways and are still in the process of firming up their alliances.
The UNP has decided to fight under its own election symbol and is wooing several smaller opposition parties that had thrown their weight behind General (retired) Fonseka.
So far, Mangala Samaraweera, Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) led by Rauff Hakeem and the Democratic People's Front (DPF) led by Mano Ganeshan have agreed to be part of the UNP led alliance.
The man, who brought the opposition parties together, General (retired) Fonseka, is expected to lead an alliance floated by the JVP. Fonseka is currently under military detention on a number of charges and there is clarity yet on whether he would be eligible to contest.
Nineteen members of Parliament will be elected from Colombo District by 1,521,854 registered voters. The number of MPs elected from the Anuradhapura has been increased by one. Security has been strengthened around District Secretariats during the period as leaders of various Political Parties and Ministers will be frequenting the venues.
Officials in the Election Commission further said that it would deploy 300,000 Public Servants for election duty in the forthcoming general election. 250,000 public servants were engaged in election duty during the presidential election.
In another development, in a letter addressed to the President, the Tamil United Liberation Front leader, V. Anandasangaree has said that if the government is really serious about restoring democracy at all levels in the North and the East, it should take action, well ahead of the last day for submission of nominations for the forthcoming parliamentary elections, to withdraw all arms from the persons or groups who are not legally authorised to posses arms.
"Then only there will be proper "Vasantham" in the North and "Uthayam" in the East and the people of these areas will enter into a new-era with most of their rights, be they fundamental, human or democratic, restored fully. Also they will enjoy the freedom of electing their representatives of their own free will. This will not only grant relief for the people after three decades but will also increase the credibility of the government which is at stake at least where the North and the East are concerned”, the letter said.