Lanka's Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse has launched his
presidential campaign by rejecting the Tamil Tigers' demands for
Tamil autonomy. Unveiling his election manifesto in the capital,
Colombo, Mr Rajapakse also indicated that
Norway would no longer play a role as peace broker. He has
promised to create jobs for thousands of people displaced by the
tsunami and two decades of civil war. The polls are scheduled to be
held on 17 November.
Mr Rajapakse, the ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party's candidate, said
he would reject the rebels' demands for self-government. "I will not
be held prisoner by concepts such as
the right to self-determination," the 59-year-old prime minister
said in his manifesto, the Reuters news agency reports. He said he
would protect the unity, sovereignty and security of the country and
also preserve civil rights of all groups. "I strongly believe in
achieving peace without going to war." There was no immediate
reaction from the rebels to Mr Rajapakse's policy statement.
Peace efforts by Mr Rajapakse's main presidential rival and
opposition leader, Ranil Wickramasinghe, resulted in a
with the Tiger rebels brokered by Norway more than three years ago.
Rajapakse's party says his peace initiative would involve a
cross-section of people. Peace talks broke down in 2003 and have
been stalled after rebels demanded greater autonomy in the north and
east of the country.
Mr Rajapakse indicated that Norway's peace for was up for review.
"We all know that the facilitators and the monitors are not doing
the job they are supposed to be doing," the prime minister's
spokesman, Mangala Samaraweera, was quoted saying by the AFP news
Mr Samaraweera said the PM's peace initiative would involve a
cross-section of people and that he was also hoping to have direct
talks with the rebels. His party has the support of two hardline
nationalist parties opposed to concessions to the Tamil Tiger
rebels. Mr Rajapakse's party had earlier accused the main opposition
United National Party, of making too many concessions to the rebels
while in power.
"The ceasefire agreement will be reformed as not to allow any room
for terrorist acts," said Mr Rajapakse's election campaign
manifesto. Mr Wickramasinghe has offered to continue the current
peace process and also resume talks with the rebels. Correspondents
say the stand taken by the two candidates on the issue of peace
talks will play an important role in the election in which the other
main issue is the economy. "