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Rajapaksa won't extend term without polls, says Lanka

By T V Sriram in Colombo
June 22, 2009 17:40 IST
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Dismissing reports that Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa was planning constitutional amendments to extend his term without holding elections, the Sri Lankan government said on Monday that he had no intention to be in power "beyond the period mandated by the ballot".

A media report on Sunday said that the government was proposing to introduce constitutional amendments aimed at extending the term of office of Rajapaksa without holding a presidential election. The government, however, denied it was contemplating any such move, saying Rajapaksa believed in "peoples' mandate". "The United Peoples Freedom Alliance  led by President Mahinda Rajapaksa firmly believes in the peoples' mandate and freedom of the voters' franchise rights, and has no intention to be in power beyond the period mandated by the ballot," Minister of Mass Media, Information and Enterprise Development, Anura Priyadharshana Yapa said in a statement.

The report in the Sunday Times quoted Janaka Bandara Tennakoon, Minister of Provincial Councils as saying that some sections in the government had requested Rajapaksa to continue in office without holding election. Dismissing the report Yapa said Rajapaksa "would decide on the matter of re-election at appropriate time stipulated by procedures enshrined in the Constitution" and estimated that he may call election after November 19 this year or after he completes his first term in 2011.

Yapa said the UPFA and its main constituent, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party firmly believed in democracy, pointing out that the SLFP had opposed a referendum to extend the life of parliament during President J R Jayewardene's administration. "We believe in people's mandate and the democratic right of the ballot and this we have demonstrated many many times," the Minister said. Yapa said Rajapaksa was a "very popular" President and expressed confidence that the people will "respond positively" in favour of the leader "who saved his nation the clutches of cruel terrorism".

The Sri Lankan President is elected for a period of six years. Besides some of Rajapaksa's supporters in the SLFP, a district unit of the opposition UNP has also mooted the proposal for the President seeking another term without election. They said the money spent on elections could be used for development purposes.

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T V Sriram in Colombo
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