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Lankan opposition parties warn of Egypt-type protests

world Updated: Feb 05, 2011 18:24 IST

Sri Lanka's main opposition parties on Saturday warned the government that it will carryout agitations similar to those sweeping the Arab world as they planed a major protest against the detention of former army chief Sarath Fonseka.

The United National Party (UNP) of former premier Ranil Wickremesinghe said that the attack against its MPs and supporters on Friday was a clear sign that the government was not willing to allow democratic dissent.

It warned of major protests, similar to those sweeping across the Arab world, unless the government stopped "suppression of dissent".

"The protests sweeping across the Arab world is a result of long years of suppression and we want to remind the government that people here too will resort to similar action," UNP deputy Karu Jayasuriya said.

The main opposition parties are planning to stage a demonstration in the capital on Tuesday to mark one year of Fonseka's arrest, just two weeks after he failed to unseat Mahinda Rajapakse at the January 26 presidential polls.

Fonseka, the war hero credited with crushing the Tamil Tiger rebels in May 2009, is serving a 30-month jail term after his conviction by a military court martial in September in 2010.

UNP leader Jayasuriya narrowly escaped the attack by alleged government supporters when they tried to stage a night vigil outside the country's main prison demanding the release of the common opposition presidential candidate Fonseka.

Several vehicles of opposition members were smashed and nearly a dozen, including UNP MP's were wounded when government supporters attacked them with sticks and clubs on Friday night as the country marked its 63rd anniversary of independence from Britain, police said.

The leftist JVP, or the People's Liberation Front said that it condemned the attack against the UNP-led protest in favour of Fonseka and said that the government was clearly bent on suppressing its political opponents.

The JVP claimed the government had locked up the top military commander but were cosying up to Kumaran Pathmanathan, the international leader of the Tamil Tigers and the main arms procurer of the former rebels.

Pathmanathan is officially in military custody after government forces reportedly "arrested" him at a south Asian city in 2010.

However, he is known to be travelling with military escorts to the country's north for "political work" in support of the government.