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Rajapaksa calls for ethnic reconciliation in comeback bid

Rajapaksa calls for ethnic reconciliation in comeback bid

ANURADHAPURA: Sri Lanka’s former strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa formally launched his political comeback bid on Friday from the historic Buddhist pilgrim town of Anuradhapura with a call for ethnic reconciliation.

Rajapaksa, 69, a staunch Sinhalese nationalist credited with crushing Tamil rebels and ending a 37-year-long separatist war in 2009, is standing for election in parliamentary polls on August 17 after losing a presidential vote in January.

After initially saying he wanted to retire, Rajapaksa re-emerged earlier this month seeking to spearhead the parliamentary election campaign for his United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA).

The new leader of the party, President Maithripala Sirisena, earlier this week predicted his predecessor would be defeated at the polls as minority Tamils and Muslims would not vote for him.

However, Rajapaksa told thousands of supporters in Anuradhapura, 200 kilometres north of the capital Colombo, that he was ready to learn from his mistakes and work towards ethnic and religious unity.

“I am ready learn from my mistakes... we must work towards ethnic reconciliation and ensure that religious and other minorities are protected”, Rajapakse said.

Published in Dawn, July 18th, 2015

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