Colombo - Sri Lanka's main opposition and a key minority party used May Day to demand that the country find a way to ease ethnic tensions, three years after the end of a war in which the government defeated a Tamil rebel uprising.
Ranil Wickremesinghe, a former prime minister, selected a former Tamil rebel-held area in the northern part of the country to hold the United National Party's (UNP) May Day rally.
“The war is over now and it is enough that the people have suffered. They need a solution to their problems,” Wickremesinghe said.
The Tamils had pushed for a separate homeland amid allegations of being discriminated against by the government. Since the Tamil rebels were defeated, the government has promised to reach out to ethnic Tamils, but many still feel they are not treated equally.
The UNP was joined by the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) - a party accused of working as a proxy of the former Tamil rebels of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who were defeated in May 2009 by the military.
“It is time that the people are given equal political rights to live equally”, Wickremesinghe said.
The leader of the TNA, R Sampanthan, said he expects the support of the main opposition to win the demands of the minority Tamils.
“We have been speaking to the government to gain the demands of the minorities, but the talks have not been successful”, Sampanthan, who is also a member of parliament, said.
Sampanthan's party has demanded the settlement of all displaced persons.
Talks between the TNA and the government for working out a political settlement on minority issues have stalled since December.
The ruling United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA), led by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, marked May Day celebrations in the capital, Colombo. - Sapa-dpa