UPFA candidate Mahinda Rajapakse`s campaign manager Mangala Samaraweera claimed yesterday the SLFP would reject moves by UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe to bring the two party`s together to arrive at a consensus on the ethnic issue.
Addressing a news conference in Colombo, Mr. Samaraweera said the consensus approach sought by Mr. Wickremesinghe was a `joke` because for the past eleven years, the UNP had rejected every effort by President Chandrika Kumaratunga to reach such a consensus.
?It is our government that consistently looked at a solution to the ethnic issue. In 1997, the President came up with a devolution package but the UNP sabotaged it. Then the President continued discussions with Mr. Wickremesinghe through a draft constitution, but he burnt it.
?He has throughout rejected our overtures to join the government to solve the issue. The latest request is a joke,? Mr. Samaraweera said.
He said that instead of accepting Mr. Wickremesinghe`s offer, Prime Minister Rajapakse after winning the presidential election would seek a consensus approach with the new leadership of the UNP.
Mr. Samaraweera denied reports that President Kumaratunga had sought help from Mr. Wickremesinghe to save the SLFP from those who were trying to destroy it.
Mr. Samaraweera stressed that Monday`s meeting between the President and Mr. Wickremesinghe ? described in media reports yesterday as highly successful ? was sought by the UNP leader and was not an initiative of the President.
Mr. Samaraweera claimed that the SLFP was fully behind presidential candidate Rajapakse and if the party needed any protection, it was to be protected from Mr. Wickremesinghe.
Joint campaign chief Wimal Weerawansa told the news conference the UNP was trying to break up the country by secretly offering a solution based on the Interim Self-Governing Authority proposed by the LTTE.
Mr. Weerawansa, propaganda secretary of the JVP, also challenged the UNP leader to reveal what exactly he had promised to the CWC and the SLMC in return for their support.