Ranil refutes Chandrika's allegation

COLOMBO, SEPT. 2. The United National Party (UNP) leader, Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe, has said the allegation by the President, Mrs. Chandrika Kumaratunga, that he had prior knowledge of the December 1999 attempt on her life, had been made to ``smear'' his name ahead of the general elections. ``I deny this false allegation completely and without qualification,'' Mr. Wickremesinghe has said in a strongly-worded letter addressed to the President, copies of which were sent by the UNP to news organisations.

Mrs. Kumaratunga told a convention of her Sri Lanka Freedom Party workers earlier this week that the UNP leader was in the know of the plot to kill her and challenged him to refute the allegation.

He reminded Mrs. Kumaratunga that she had made a similar charge against him to an international news magazine in March this year but had later said she was quoted out of context.

Mr. Wickremesinghe said Mrs. Kumaratunga had chosen to raise the matter once again before the elections ``in the hope that you might be able to smear my name''. ``You can throw as many false allegations against me and the UNP as you like. Such acts show you are desperate...,'' he said in the letter, sent to Mrs. Kumaratunga on Thursday.

The latest round of sledging between the two leaders follows a sustained government propaganda campaign against Mr. Wickremesinghe, charging him with being clandestinely in touch with the LTTE through a Singapore-based businessman.

More recently, the state-run media ran leaked police documents implicating the UNP leader and some of his associates in a human rights abuse incident from the 1980s.

Meanwhile, with the September 4 deadline for nominations approaching, several political parties submitted their lists of candidates in different electoral districts of the country.

In Jaffna, eight political parties and independent groups have so far filed nominations, including several Sinhala parties that have no base in the Tamil-dominated peninsula, like the Puravasi Perumena, a party founded by former UNP strongman, Mr. Sirisena Cooray, the Janatha Vimukthi Perumena and the Ruhunu People's Party.

The Tamil United Liberation Front list is headed by the party vice-president, Mr. V. Anandasangari. With the two factions of the Eelam People's Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF) engaged in a court battle, the party general secretary, Mr. Suresh Premachandran, has filed nominations as an independent group. It is expected that the leader of the other faction, Mr. Varatharaja Perumal, will submit a separate list of candidates.

The People's Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE) has included candidates from the now defunct EROS in its list that was submitted on Friday. The Eelam People's Democratic Party (EPDP), which won nine seats in the 1994 general elections, is yet to file nominations.

In southern Sri Lanka, there was a rush to file nominations before the weekend. The PA filed nominations in 13 districts, with the Prime Minister, Mr. Ratnasiri Wickremenayake, standing for re-election from Kalutara, 40 km south of the capital on the western seaboard.

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