Sri Lanka president rules out snap poll

Sri Lanka's president has ruled out a snap parliamentary election to increase his slender majority, after battlefield success against the Tamil Tiger rebels boosted his government.

Sri Lanka president rules out snap poll
Sri Lanka's president has ruled out a snap parliamentary election to increase his slender majority, after battlefield success against the Tamil Tiger rebels boosted his government.

President Mahinda Rajapakse said he was keen that the current parliament serve its full six-year term. It was elected in April 2004, while the president came to power in November 2005.

'I am not interested in calling a snap election,' the president told AFP late Saturday on the sidelines of his first public rally, in Nawalapitiya, central Sri Lanka, after troops captured the rebels' final bastion in the east.

'This is a very favourable time for our party, but I don't want to go for another general election and spend two billion rupees (18 million dollars) to conduct that election.

'I can build a few more roads with that money. We have a stable government and I want other parties too to unite and move forward.'

Blue flags signifying his party and banners welcoming him as a hero were raised across Nawalapitiya.

'Welcome our hero,' said one blue-and-white banner. 'Mahinda to secure our tomorrow,' said another.

Maithripala Sirisena, the secretary of Rajapakse's Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), said Saturday's public rally represented the first in a series due across the country.

'We want to use these engagements to respond to some of the key issues aswell as respond to criticism by the opposition,' Sirisena said.

Two SLFP dissidents last week formed an alliance with the main opposition in the first open bout of defiance since Rajapakse narrowly won the presidency.

Rajapakse's minority government secured a simple majority in the 225-member assembly in February after engineering the defection of 17 opposition legislators.

Local media reports have speculated that Rajapakse may opt for an early election to capitalise on the government's recent military victory.

Rajapakse told a large public gathering in Nawalapitiya, 150 kilometres (93 miles) east of Colombo, that he wanted unity among parties to end the tropical island's drawn out ethnic conflict.

Last week, Rajapakse said the Tamil Tigers must decide between war and peace, and that he was prepared for both.

He insisted he was leaving the door open for the resumption of negotiations with the rebels. Talks collapsed in October last year despite intense international pressure for peace.

'War or peace, we are ready,' the president said last week. 'It is in their hands. It is now up to the Tigers to decide which path they want to tread on.'

The government's recent military success has given it control of the Eastern province, an area of 9,635 square kilometres (3,720 square miles), for the first time in more than a decade.

'I fervently hope, especially our international friends, will help us to rebuild the east,' Rajapakse said. He said reconstruction could get under way immediately.

The guerrillas have admitted losing control over their key bases in the province, but have vowed hit-and-run attacks against security forces and economic targets.

More than 60,000 people have been killed in Sri Lanka's ethnic conflict since 1972. The rebels are fighting for an independent homeland for the island's minority Tamils.

AFP

Güncelleme Tarihi: 22 Temmuz 2007, 18:44
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