COLOMBO: Sri Lanka's ruling party presidential candidate Sajith Premadasa has asked the main Opposition leader Mahinda Rajapaksa not to fuel communal hatred over his plans for the devolution of power to the Tamil minority.
His comment came after Rajapaksa accused Premadasa of diluting the unitary character of the state by his plans for power devolution.
Premadasa, the ruling United National Party (UNP) candidate on October 31 released his election manifesto for the November 16 presidential election and proposed the reinstatement of the Senate to ensure devolution of powers to the provinces.
Rajapaksa while criticising Premadasa urged the powerful Buddhist clergy to enter into a debate with the ruling party candidate over his plans for power devolution.
He claimed Premadasa's manifesto seeks to dilute the unitary character of the state.
Premadasa said he is committed to the devolution of power while preserving the country's independence and sovereignty.
In a letter addressed to Rajapaksa, in response to his criticism, Premadasa said that his definition of "undivided, indivisible Sri Lanka" can be interpreted as a united country.
Premadasa asked Rajapaksa that he should not whip up communal hatred as means to support the candidature of his brother, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, who is Premadasa's main rival in the election.
The Buddhist clergy has historically remained opposed to any form of power-sharing with the Tamil minority.
All such attempts have been seen by the clergy as giving in to Tamils.
Premadasa, who banks on support from the Tamil and Muslim minority to win next week's presidential election has received their support on the basis of his manifesto.
Sri Lanka's Tamil National Alliance (TNA) on Thursday extended its support to Premadasa, terming him as a candidate with clean hands.
Explaining their stand to support Premadasa against Gotabhaya, TNA said the Sri Lankan voter expects the new president to be genuinely committed to democracy, independence of institutions and to honour fundamental and human rights.
Premadasa's main rival Gotabhaya relies on the Sinhala majority to be elected president while Premadasa is seen as the more secular choice.
The Sinhala majority considers Mahinda Rajapaksa a hero for his leadership to end the three-decade-long armed separatist movement by the LTTE to carve out an independent Tamil homeland in the north and east provinces.
The Tamil and Muslim votes are crucial to form the government.
In 2015, current president Maithripala Sirisena, who was the main opposition challenger, secured most of the minority votes when he defeated Sri Lanka Freedom Party's Mahinda Rajapaksa ending his 10-year rule.
Tamils, however, remain disgruntled as the current government has failed to adopt a new constitution to address Tamil demand for political autonomy.