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UNP still looking for Opposition unity

UNP General Secretary Tissa Attanayake yesterday issued an open invitation to all parties, especially the JVP, to run under the United National Front (UNF) banner and the Elephant symbol at the forthcoming parliamentary election.

He said that SLMC, DPF and SLFP(Mahajana wing) will run under the UNF livery and he would request all Lankans to join hands to restore democracy and press freedom and eliminate corruption, fraud and robbery by the government.

"As a responsible party, we are ready for an open discussion with the JVP and other parties and organizations for unity even at this late hour," Attanayake said.

"This is because we believe that democracy and fundamental human rights of the majority of the people of the country are under grave threat."

He told a news briefing at Siri Kotha yesterday that they were shocked at the undemocratic manner in which the government was abusing its powers to threaten, intimidate and harass those who oppose its views.

"Even now we have reliable information that the police armed with a search warrant is searching the JVP headquarters at Battaramulla," he said.

Attanayake was confidante that the majority of the people suffering under the heel of the dictatorial government of President Rajapaksa would elect the united opposition to office. Excessive power in the hands of a single individual was dangerous and can only be reversed by electing the opposition to power at the forthcoming election, he said.

Searching the JVP headquarters was a clear sign that the government wished to crackdown on those with opposing views. They would earnestly appeal to the government not to abuse emergency regulations against legitimate political activity.

Attanayake said that the UNF will run candidates in all districts of the country and 80% of the work connected with finalizing nominations has been completed. They expected to hand in nominations either on Feb. 25 or 26.

Attanayake said that Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe will preside over ceremonies connected with the signing of nomination papers and the naming of district leaders at Siri Kotha this morning.

He also said that they will continue their efforts to secure General Sarath Fonseka’s immediate release. He had been taken into custody in an illegal manner and his detention is morally wrong.

"We have great faith in the judiciary and continue our legal battle to free the General," Attanayake said. "The next hearing of the Fundamental Rights petition will be on Feb. 23. We will take our million signature Janatha Pethsama calling for the General’s release to people in all parts of the country."

Responding to a question on the UNP’s position on a war crimes trial in The Hague, the UNP’s General Secretary said that they totally rejected all such allegations and will not agree to any citizen or soldier being charged with war crimes.

On GSP+, the UNP appealed against the suspension of the trade concession saying it would affect the employment of thousands of rural women and they will cooperate with any effort to retain the facility.

He blamed the government for the country losing GSP+ and said that the UNP Deputy Leader Mr. Karu Jayasuriya, has made a special request to the European Commission to allow Sri Lanka to continue to benefit from the facility.

Attanayake also said in response to a question that the UNP did not oppose the granting of land and police powers to provincial councils under the Thirteenth Amendment. It was they who enacted it and they see no harm in granting these powers to the provincial councils.

"Its implementation is in the hands of the government and they should do that without pointing fingers at the opposition," Attanayake said.

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