Dr. J.J. meets Batticaloa Deputy Mayor in a temple
UNP asks Karuna faction to play fair at Eastern PC election

Amidst a simmering controversy over the Rajapaksa administration’s willingness for its own political gain to play ball with the TMVP which broke from the LTTE, the main Opposition UNP has urged the group to allow a free and fair election to the Eastern Provincial Council (EPC).

The first ever election to the EPC is scheduled for May 10th.

Asserting the March 10 elections to eight Pradeshiya Sabhas and Batticaloa Municipal Council swept by the armed TMVP hadn’t been free and fair, the UNP has emphasized the importance of giving the Easterners a free hand at the forthcoming election.

This transpired at a hastily arranged meeting at Mangalaramaya, Batticaloa between Dr. Jayalath Jayawardena, MP, and Pradeep Master, Deputy Mayor of the Batticaloa Municipal Council last Tuesday.

The meeting took place against the backdrop of an insistent demand peddled by the UNP to pressure the government to disarm the group. The UNP’s call has received the backing of all opposition political parties including a section of the JVP which is sharply divided over the issue.

Although the JVP has rejected the allegation that its parliamentary group leader, Wimal Weerawansa, has had taken a contradictory position to that of JVP leader Somawansa Amarasinghe over the question of disarming the TMVP, well informed sources said the JVP had been placed in a difficult position.

Weerawansa addressing a press conference called by Patriotic National Front asserted the disarming of the group shouldn’t jeopardize the security of TMVP cadres who played a significant role in the war against the LTTE in the East.

Dr. Jayawardena had been on a two-day visit to the Batticaloa District on UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe’s directive to assess the ground situation ahead of nominations which close on April 3. Wickremesinghe has also directed Vajira Abeywardena and Daya Gamage to carry out similar surveys in the Trincomalee and Ampara districts respectively.

Confirming his meeting with Pradeep Master, Jayawardena emphasized it wasn’t a clandestine meeting. "Having heard of my visit, the TMVP wanted to meet me. The Deputy Mayor accompanied by a uniformed policeman and two other youth visited me at Mangalaramaya," he said.

The outspoken MP once accused by President Kumaratunga of being an agent of the LTTE said he wouldn’t mind meeting anyone on behalf of the party. He reiterated their concerns the forthcoming election wouldn’t be free and fair due to the TMVP being allowed to retain arms.

The TMVP’s second-in-command has told Dr. Jayawardena that they would most probably contest the EPC jointly with the government.

Jayawardena said this was a forgone conclusion after the TMVP contested the Batticaloa Municipal Council on the UPFA ticket. He asserted this would give an undue advantage to the government at the forthcoming election.

The MP has also visited Vakarai and Chenkaladi during his Batticaloa tour. He expressed satisfaction that he was able to short list several Tamil speaking candidates to contest the Batticaloa district. The final decision would be taken by party Nomination Board, he said.

Meanwhile Chief Government Whip Jeyaraj Fernandopulle told a recent meeting of SLFP Galigamuwa organization that the entry of the TMVP into the mainstream would pose a serious threat to the LTTE. Accusing the UNP leader of demanding de-commissioning of weapons with the TMVP while being silent on the LTTE, Fernandopulle emphasized the need to disarm both parties.

He expressed the belief that any attempt to disarm the TMVP would be counter productive and would in fact facilitate LTTE operations against their former colleagues.

Minister Rajitha Senaratne said the UNP had conveniently forgotten the EPRLF, PLOTE and EROS contested elections to the North East Provincial Council conducted under the auspices of the IPKF in 1988. He criticized the SLFP’s decision to boycott 1988 elections. He ridiculed the UNP leadership for adopting an approach similar to that of the SLFP and strongly backed the TMVP’s right to retain arms as long as an LTTE remained a threat to the breakaway group.


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