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Opposition boycott Independence day function

Sri Lanka's main opposition parties were conspicuous by their absence at the main government function to celebrate the country's 60th Independence Day on Monday.

world Updated: Feb 04, 2008 12:31 IST

Sri Lanka's main opposition parties were conspicuous by their absence at the main government function to celebrate the country's 60th Independence Day on Monday.

The United National Party (UNP), Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) and Tamil National Alliance (TNA) boycotted the main function at Galle Face Green in which president Mahinda Rajapaksa spoke and a distinguished gathering was treated to some colourful pageantry and an impressive military parade.

"There is no freedom in the country under President Mahinda Rajapaksa," said Tissa Attanayake, general secretary and spokesman of the main opposition United National Party (UNP).

"The UNP will conduct religious ceremonies in places of worship to make the occasion solemn," he told the media.

"This is not the first time the UNP is boycotting the Independence Day celebrations," said C. Mahendran, former ambassador and advisor to the UNP on international affairs.

"Ever since Rajapaksa took away 17 of our members of parliament in September 2006, breaking a solemn pact on bipartisan cooperation, we have boycotted government functions on this day," Mahendran told IANS.

"The other issue is the president's refusal to appoint members to the Constitutional Council set up under the 17th amendment. The Constitutional Council had been established to make appointments to the police and election commissions. By not enabling the constitutional council to function, the executive is trampling on the constitution," Mahendran added.

JVP leader Somawansa Amarasinghe said that the party had "valid reasons" to stay away from the function but added that these could not be revealed immediately.

"We will go public on this Tuesday," he told IANS.

The SLMC had broken away from the Rajapaksa-led coalition last year and the pro-Tamil Tiger TNA has always been at odds with his government.