Sinhala nationalist party to support referendum

[TamilNet, Friday, 03 August 2001, 15:33 GMT]
The Mahajana Eksath Peramuna (MEP), a constituent party of the ruling People's Alliance, decided to extend its "fullest support" to the government for the 21 August referendum following a pledge by the Sri Lankan President that the draft constitution withdrawn last year will not be reintroduced. A unanimous decision to this effect was taken at a meeting attended by MEP parliamentarians, provincial councillors and members of local authorities held Friday.

The Sinhala nationalist MEP is opposed to granting regional autonomy to Tamils. Earlier the party expressed concern that a draft constitution which was shelved last year amid opposition from a broad spectrum of Sinhala political opinion might be introduced again if there is a majority yes vote at the referendum.

The leader of the MEP and Minister for Transport Mr. Dinesh Gunawardene presided at the meeting.

dinesh_gunawardene.jpgParticipants told the MEP high command that "it should support the referendum while preserving the identity of the party". Mr. Dinesh Gunawardene said, "my party has taken this decision as the PA government pledged to introduce a new constitution conducive to the general public after the referendum. Another reason for our support to the referendum is the government's declaration that it would not re-introduce the earlier political package withdrawn in August, 2000".

"The relations between the United National Party and the LTTE have aroused strong suspicion among the people. The doubts have been justified by the manner the UNP is conducting its relationship with Tamil political parties that are adopting pro-LTTE position," Mr. Dinesh Gunawardene said.

The PA's propaganda against the opposition is centred on the theme that the UNP is insidiously colluding with the Liberation Tigers to undermine Sinhala national interests. The theme has found much favour with Sinhala nationalists who insist that defeating the Tigers totally is the only solution to the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka.

Mr. Gunawardene appealed to the PA government that "it must seek the opinion of the Mahanayake Theros (the chiefs prelates of the Sri Lankan Buddhist clergy) and masses in preparing a new constitution. This is one of the conditions in the memorandum of understanding signed by the MEP with the PA".


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