Rajapakse mulls ditching JVP for UNP - paper

[TamilNet, Sunday, 19 March 2006, 07:48 GMT]
Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse is considering a national government or a snap general election to move the peace process forward, The Sunday Leader newspaper reported this week, adding a final decision on the two options is to be taken by Rajapakse after the local authority polls on March 30. This entails a tieup between Rajapakse’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and the main opposition United National Party (UNP).

The Sunday Leader, quoting “informed sources” said Mahinda Rajapakse will discuss a working arrangement with the UNP at the bilateral talks between the two parties after the local polls to take the peace process forward in view of the ultimatum issued by the JVP.

Rajapakse believes an arrangement with the UNP will also strengthen the government's hand at the negotiating table, the Sunday Leader, known for its close links with the UNP, reported.

The SL President will discuss the possibility of a national government with the UNP in the current parliament or forming one after a snap poll which, the Sunday Leader claimed, will also see the JVP's strength reduced in parliament.

The SLFP-led government is hamstrung by holding a minority of seats in the 225 seat parliament, while the UNP is anxious to step a series of defections by both local government and parliamentary members to the SLFP. The ruling SLFP-led UPFA coalition won 106 seats in the 225 member parliament at the 2004 general election, of which the JVP has 39 MPs.

Rajapakse's decision to consider the national government option first follows an ultimatum issued by the ultra-nationalist Janatha Vimukthi Perumana (JVP) to oust Norway as facilitator of the peace process before the next round of talks in Geneva scheduled to commence on April 19, the paper said.

The Lankan President has decided to continue with Norwegian facilitation and informed the JVP of his decision, the paper said.

The JVP politburo last week decided to launch agitation campaigns calling for Norway's ouster from April prompting the President to look at available options with several ministers keen on a working arrangement with the UNP to restore economic and political stability to the country.

Rajapakse had told confidants last week he is committed to taking the peace process forward and would not cave in to JVP pressure, the Sunday Leader said.

A top source close to the Lankan President also said the international community too was in favour of a national government with the UNP in the current context.

UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe who was in Norway on an official visit was also impressed upon by the facilitator on the need for the two main parties in the south to work together on the peace process, The Sunday Leader said.

It is following Rajapakes's decision to explore the possibility of a national government that he (Rajapakse) decided to put on hold any moves to lure more UNP members to the government fold, the paper added.

 

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