Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Monday afternoon signed a proclamation setting January 23 as the date for Presidential election.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa today decided to hold the next Presidential Election and issued instructions to his Secretary, Lalith Weerathunga with regard to gazetting the Presidential proclamation to enable the Commissioner of Elections to conduct the poll , a report on the Government Information Department web site (www.news.lk) said.
Under the Constitution, the President can call for a presidential election once the incumbent completes four years of the six-year term.
The Opposition too gearing up for a presidential election was evident from a statement Issued by Karu Jayasuria, Deputy Leader of the United National Party (UNP) led by former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
With a presidential poll in the air, we have already witnessed the hasty transfers of several high ranking policemen which can only be a harbinger to the violence and abuse of state property that is to surely follow once the polls are announced.
We appeal to police officials to stay the course and enforce the laws of this land to the best of their ability. We urge you to heed your personal consciences when carrying out orders even though they may come from a superior officer if those orders are at odds with justice and morality, refrain from carrying them out. It is your bounden duty to act according to your conscience at this critical poll, to ensure that democracy and the rule of law prevails , the statement said.
A few days ago Mr. Wickremesinghe was named as the leader of the newly constituted 18-party United National Front (UNF). The former Prime Minister is on record that the alliance headed by him could consider nomination of the just retired General Sarath Fonseka as a consensus Presidential candidate to take on the Sri Lankan President, Mahinda Rajapaksa only if the former Army chief endorsed a 10-point common minimum programme with abolition or substantial dilution of powers of the Executive Presidency as a key component.
The retired General is more than willing to take a political plunge and is going out of his way to convince the sceptics in the opposition camp on how he could serve their interests the best.
He told English paper Island that he was ready to negotiate with Opposition political parties regarding any conditions for nominating him as the common presidential candidate.
The General maintained that in keeping with his policy, he could discuss with Western People s Front leader Mano Ganeshan, MP his conditions to facilitate an agreement. Both the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) and the UNP have already initiated negotiations with Fonseka though there is final agreement.
Opposition and UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe last Wednesday said that Fonseka s nomination as Presidential candidate was subject to his acceptance of the UNF s ten-point policy statement. Mano Ganeshan has subscribed to the UNF s statement.
Among the conditions put forward for Fonseka s candidature are that he must abolish the executive presidency or substantially reduces its powers in the event of being elected President, provide the TNA and JVP important portfolios in his Cabinet, ensure the speedy resettlement of northern IDPs, establish all the independent commissions required to ensure good governance and appoint Wickremesinghe as the caretaker Prime Minister.
President Rajapaksa secured clearance of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) to advance the Presidential election by two years on October 15 at his party s convention.
Taking an indirect dig at General Fonseka, Mr. Rajapaksa said that when the notion to develop the country was set in motion, there could be patriots who could become traitors for political reasons. `Such elements will only honour the last wish of LTTE leader Prabakaran who wanted to divide the military and the people.`
He asserted that he was not afraid to face an election and accused the Opposition of operating with `anti-national interests` and attempting to politicise the military. `The Opposition is so weak that it was now begging for a candidate to contest the election.`