Sri Lanka’s main Tamil party backs ex-general

(From left) Dharmasri Kumaratunga, Director - Payments and Settlements, Central Bank; Nanda Fernando, Managing Director, Sampath Bank; and Tharaka Ranwala, Head of Operations and Group Chief Marketing Officer, Sampath Bank

January 4, 2010 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s main minority Tamil party on Monday backed the main opposition presidential candidate, Sarath Fonseka, who as army chief led the offensive that crushed Tamil rebels last year, officials said. Fonseka, a former four-star general who quit in November following differences with his political boss President Mahinda Rajapakse, pledged in a letter to end a state of emergency if he was elected in the January 26 vote.

The moderate Tamil National Alliance (TNA) agreed to back Fonseka’s campaign after he signed a three-page programme that he hopes to implement in the island’s former war zone, a party official said.

“We have decided to support General Fonseka, but a formal announcement will be made on Tuesday,” said the TNA official, who declined to be named. The TNA has 21 seats in Sri Lanka’s 225-member parliament.

In his letter, a copy of which was seen by AFP on Monday, Fonseka promised to free Tamil detainees within a month if no charges had been brought against them.

The former military chief, who is credited with leading the military drive against the separatist Tamil Tigers, also promised to establish a completely civilian administration.

“Full restoration of all institu