Bringing to end months of speculation The Ceylon Workers Congress confirmed it would support Opposition leader and UNP candidate Ranil Wickremasinghe at the forthcoming presidential election. `We believe that Ranil will win and that is why we decided to support him,` CWC leader Arumugam Thondaman told reporters yesterday (5).
Thondaman, addressing a well-attended Press Conference made pointed reference to thank President CBK for the courtesies and cooperation extended to him and the plantation community in various ways including setting up of the Ministry of Estate Infrastructure Development. Signalling he maintains goodwill all round, he also thanked the Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse, whom he called a `good friend.`
Answering a question on why the CWC chose to support the opposition candidate while it was part of the UPFA government, he corrected the questioner somewhat ambiguously saying ` We are not part of the government. We support the government.` When asked if the single Minister and Deputy Minister of the CWC will resign from the government, he answered that it will be done in consultation with the President after her return.
Asked repeatedly why he chose Wickremasinghe instead of Rajapakse, he said the CWC 19-point programme was presented to both candidates and after detailed discussions with them and the CWC felt more comfortable that Ranil will `deliver.` Asked if the CWC will take the stage with the UNP, he replied they would not only do this but also, on their own, conduct public meetings in the hill country in support of Ranil. For good measure, he added `We will not go to sleep after assuring our support to someone.`
Asked what he had to say about allegations of financial gratification for his support. He said it was the concoction of a single MP who will very soon be irrelevant.
The CWC`s 19-point Programme, inter alia, calls for
* the ethnic conflict to be resolved by negotiations to the satisfaction of all communities living in Sri Lanka while guaranteeing the rights of minorities
* calls for the resolution of the ethnic problem by means of extensive power-sharing arrangements through instruments of devolution.
* calls for immediate relief to the Tsunami- damaged areas of the North East through the P- TOMS agreement - duly signed by the government and the LTTE.
* Significantly, indicating the Indian government`s good offices will be available, fie calls for shared economic, commercial I defence, security and foreign policy arrangements with India - something that is now agreed upon by all leading political parties here - interestingly, including the JVP and JHU.
* the CWC is strongly for the retention of the Executive Presidency and the present electoral system.
* Ethnic ratio in employment to the public sector through suitable constitutional guarantees.
* 1,000 plantation youth to be inducted to the Police department.
* Micro enterprises and self-sustaining ventures within the plantation areas to prevent migration to city and urban areas.