Rajapaksa asks Tamils to ‘forget the past’
Sri Lanka will not allow any Arab Spring-type uprising in the country, which is emerging from decades of ethnic war, President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is seeking an unprecedented third term, vowed on Thursday as he appealed to minority Tamils to “forget the past.”
“See what has happened in Iran, Libya and Egypt. We can’t allow that type of situation in this country. We must unite. Forget the past and let us build this country together,” Mr. Rajapaksa said, addressing minority Tamils in a public rally in the former war zone of Mullaithivu.
In the rally, the President did not mention the crushing of the LTTE who fought their final battle in Mullaithivu where a large number of people are still searching for their missing family members.
“We cannot let history repeat in this country,” he said.
The President said that he telephoned Pakistan premier Nawaz Sharif and expressed the island’s sympathy over the Taliban attack at an army school in Peshawar, in which at least 132 students and 16 staffers were killed.
“I spoke with Pakistan Prime Minister today to express our sympathies over the terrorist attack on the children and their teachers,” he said in the rally.
He emphasised on promoting economic activity in the region, saying the national budget will focus on increasing jobs for minority Tamils.
Sri Lankan troops allegedly killed about 40,000 Tamil civilians in the final months of fighting, when the leadership of the Tamil Tiger separatists was wiped out in 2009.
Tamils who account for about 15 per cent of the country’s 15.5 million electorate can play a key role in deciding the next president.
Mr. Rajapaksa is touring the north of the country drumming up support for his unprecedented bid for a third term in the January 8 elections.
Mr. Rajapaksa had called the snap election last month, two years before his second term ends.
He faces his former health minister Maithripala Sirisena who defected to the opposition to become the common candidate of the opposition for the presidential election.
Mr. Sirisena led a revolt in Rajapaksa’s ruling coalition, taking with him 11 ministers and lawmakers.
Mr. Rajapaksa — who was elected in 2005 and 2010 — is seeking re-election amid signs of a drop in popularity and demands of his powers to be curbed.