Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Tuesday told heads of the local print and electronic media that his decision to advance the presidential election by two years was prompted by his desire to restore universal franchise to the Tamil civilians.

Also on Tuesday, the ultra nationalist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) extended conditional support for the candidature of General (retired) Sarath Fonseka.

In his meeting with the local media heads, Mr. Rajapaksa said the people of the North were deprived of voting rights by the LTTE and added: “I have been assigned by the people of this country to unite the nation, protect the sovereignty.”

The ruling combine commenced the campaign for the presidential election slated for January 23 by posting leaders to either campaign for Mr. Rajapaksa or to target the “opportunistic politics” of his rivals.

The opposition parties are still in the process of fine-tuning their strategy on how to derive maximum mileage from “war hero” General (retired) Fonseka, who is their consensus candidate against Mr. Rajapaksa.

Meanwhile, JVP parliamentarian Ramalingham Chandrasekar told The Hindu that General (retired) Fonseka had agreed to their five-point charter of demands in return for their backing him as a presidential candidate.

Sources in the General’s camp said he was more than eager to jump into the presidential race.

“The retired General is talking to representatives of various opposition parties in the island nation and we are hopeful that he would emerge as the common consensus candidate of the opposition combine,” said an aide.

The key point in the charter of demands of the JVP and the opposition United National Party (UNP) is the abolition or substantial dilution of the powers of the Executive Presidency. Most mainstream parties in Sri Lanka have agreed that the supreme powers conferred to the office of the Executive Presidency have polarised the society further and complicated the solution to the ethnic problem.

Meanwhile, General (retired) Fonseka filed a Fundamental Rights petition in the Supreme Court requesting adequate security and also seeking the intervention of the court to allow him to stay on at his official residence on the ground that the government was not complying with his request.

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