Commander-turned-politician and major opposition parties’ consensus presidential candidate Sarath Fonseka has urged the voters to seize opportunities to build on the triumphs of the island nation on the foundations of reconciliation, prosperity, development and true peace. The retired General’s first national address was aired by the state owned ‘Eye’ television channel as per the Election Commission’s guidelines to provide a level-playing field to all the candidates in the January 26 election.

A similar speech of Mr. Rajapaksa, who is seeking a second term two years ahead of his tenure, is to be aired in the next few days.

The campaign, mainly a contest between Mr. Rajapaksa and the retired General, is expected to gain momentum next week. While systemic changes like abolition of Executive Presidency and alleged corruption and nepotism of Mr. Rajapaksa are the focus of the former Army Chief, Mr. Rajapaksa has made development after the military defeat of the LTTE as his main poll plank.

General (retired) Fonseka, who claims the main architect of the victory over the Tigers, is scheduled to launch his political rallies in the northern and eastern provinces beginning on Saturday.

He would address public rallies at Jaffna, Ampara, Vavuniya, Mannar, Trincomalee and Batticaloa in the coming week. Mr. Rajapaksa has already addressed a few campaign meetings in the north and the east.

In his new year message the retired General said, “It was a year of immense triumph on the one hand winning the war, while on the other, we lost tragically on not exploiting the opportunities. As we stand at the entrance of a new decade, people looked forward to a bright future following the war victory accomplished by defeating the menace of terrorism seven months ago. Let not these hopes of the people be dashed to the ground”.

“On this auspicious day , I wish to promise that if selfish family rule, corruption and nepotism are defeated at the forthcoming election, people’s wishes, hopes and aspirations can be fulfilled; and a people’s new year 2010 can be made to dawn,” he said.

Separately, a former Prime Minister and leader of the opposition, Ranil Wickremesinghe, in his 2010 message said, “I hope an environment will be created where all citizens can live without fear sans corruption and violence. Let there be an end to family rule and a people’s reign prevail...”

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