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Eastern Provincial Council Polls:

Parties map out strategy for Eastern stake

COLOMBO: With barely three weeks more for the Eastern Province Election heightened activity was witnessed on the campaign trail with the United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) already raising the tempo with a vigourous house to house canvassing beginning yesterday chiefly aimed at forging unity among the once divided Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim communities in the East.

UPFA General Secretary Minister Susil Premajayantha said yesterday that attempts by certain political groups to fan the flames of ethnic tension for cheap political gain cannot be condoned.

Thus all parties contesting under the symbol of "Betel Leaf" would join under one banner to make the public aware that ethnic harmony symbolised the new East after two decades of LTTE tyranny, Premajayantha said.

He said the UPFA will deliver this message from door to door, in addition to its pocket meetings and issue a booklet under the party's Eastern election slogan "vote for national unity and development of the Eastern province" to every household in the province.

Minister Premajayantha said a UPFA Council which has the backing of all three communities was the best option to carry the momentum forward, with regard to the hardly earned peace and ongoing development in the East.

According to Minister Premajayantha, the PC poll in the East symbolised the culmination of the Government's efforts to establish democracy after ridding the Province of the LTTE presence.

The Minister stated that the Government's development drive in the East was being carried forward smoothly and resettling IDPs, infrastructure renovations, development of transport and education facilities, trade etc were continuing according to schedule.

Meanwhile, the UNP-SLMC combine too has stepped up their election campaign and according to the Ampara district group leader cum SLMC General Secretary Hassen Ali, the slogan in their campaign would be "Democracy for East".

According to Ali, the main focus was to make people aware of the necessity in finding a permanent solution to the current conflict based on a negotiated settlement which advocates a reasonable power sharing agreement.

The JVP campaign wheels too are moving smoothly and the present issues within the party hierarchy has not affected its momentum in the Eastern theatre, its Chief Ministerial candidate Wimal Piyatissa said.

According to Piyatissa, though the party does not approve the PC system their intention is to make the opportunity a platform to make the people aware of the threat posed by separatists to the country's sovereignty.

Piyatissa believes that his party could garner the masses' support to end separatism and wipe out the scourge of communalism from the country which has plagued the East for decades.

Meanwhile, the other two main contenders, the EPDP and the TDNA, have confined their campaigns to pocket meetings and house to house canvassing with the primary focus on the ethnic question.

The Eastern Province is unique in the country's electoral landscape being home to all three major communities in substantial proportions.

The first and the last PC election in the East was held almost 20 years ago in 1988 to the then merged Northeast Provincial Council.

Thus the election slated to take place on May 10 would be the first occasion that a poll would be held for the de-merged East.

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