Ex-Tamil rebel supporters back ex-army leader in presidential raceJanuary 6th, 2010 - 7:13 pm ICT by IANS
Colombo, Jan 6 (DPA) A former pro-rebel Tamil political party Wednesday officially announced its support of former army commander Sarath Fonseka in Sri Lanka’s Jan 26 presidential election.
The Tamil National Alliance (TNA), Sri Lanka’s most prominent Tamil party with 22 members in the 225-seat parliament, called on minority Tamils to support General Fonseka, the opposition candidate, who is running against incumbent Mahinda Rajapaksa.
“We feel that he understands the problems of the minorities much better than his opponent,” TNA leader R. Sampanthan said in Colombo.
Fonseka was instrumental in spearheading the military campaign that defeated the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebel group in May, but since then, he has fallen out with President Rajapaksa and decided to run against him.
The TNA was likely to attract votes from LTTE sympathisers who believed the rebels were fighting for the rights of the Tamil ethnic minority group.
Sampanthan said there were no conditions put on the TNA’s support of Fonseka, but minority issues were raised during negotiations with him.
He said some of those issues were the immediate resettlement of an estimated 300,000 people displaced by the war with the rebels, the release of rebel suspects who have not been charged, a political solution to disputes with minorities and the relaxation of high security zones around army camps so villagers may return to their homes in the former war zone.
During the latest presidential elections in 2005, the rebels, who were fighting for a separate homeland for Tamils, called on voters to boycott the polls. The opposition claimed the move helped Rajapaksa to a narrow victory over former prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Fonseka is being backed by Wickremesinghe’s United National Party, which is the main opposition group, as well as the third-largest party, the Marxists JVP, and Sri Lanka’s strongest Muslim party.
Although Fonseka spearheaded the military campaign against the LTTE, many Tamils believe it was on the orders of Rajapaksa that the war against the rebels was initiated and led to massive destruction in the Northern province.
Campaigning for the election, in which 14 million voters are eligible to vote, is now in progress.
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