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Save the motherland, says UPFA

By V.S. Sambandan

COLOMBO, JAN. 29. Sri Lanka's newly-formed United Peoples' Freedom Alliance (UPFA) held its first public rally in Colombo today, with calls for support from leaders of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and the left-nationalist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) "to save the motherland''.

The leader of the JVP, Somawansa Amarasinghe, who returned from a European destination, where he is on a self-imposed exile, said in joining the alliance with the SLFP, his party had to choose between principles and saving the country, and had chosen the latter. The Alliance, he said, would follow the "correct policies'' if elected to power, but did not elaborate.

No mention was made by Mr. Amarasinghe on the party's position on a proposed solution to the decades-long separatist crisis. While the SLFP is for devolution of powers and a move away from the unitary state, the JVP is for decentralisation within a unitary structure.

The leader of the Opposition, Mahinda Rajapakse, the Chief Opposition Whip and spokesman of the SLFP, Mangala Samaraweera, the leader of the National Unity Alliance, Ferial Ashraff, the leader of the Mahajana Eksath Peramuna (MEP), Dinesh Gunawardena, and Sivathasan, MP, from the Eelam People's Democratic Party (EPDP) were among those who joined in the call for support to the formation.

The rally had a predominantly visible JVP following, with its red flags swarming the Town Hall ground. The Alliance was formed on January 20, when the two parties signed a Memorandum of Understanding outlining five broad objectives.

Earlier in the day, the Cabinet spokesperson, G.L. Peiris, said a bill to provide for a single-day island-wide election for the Provincial Councils would be presented to Parliament next week. The Bill would also freeze the number of seats in the Councils at the existing level, he said.

The Government today also announced a series of measures to "reduce the cost of living'', but maintained that it was not done with an eye on elections. Provincial council elections are due in the island this year, but the possibility of a snap Parliamentary poll is also not ruled out.

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