COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — In an agreement with a major Buddhist political party, an opposition presidential candidate in Sri Lanka said Tuesday that he opposes a proposal from ethnic Tamil leaders for a federal model granting greater autonomy to provinces to solve the country's decades-long ethnic conflict.
Maithripala Sirisena also agreed with the National Heritage Party, led by a Buddhist monk, to preserve the constitutional prominence given to Buddhism.
The two parties made the pact as opposition parties try to unseat President Mahinda Rajapaksa in the Jan. 8 elections. Rajapaksa has ruled for 10 years, and is going for his third term in office.
Leaders from the ethnic Tamil minority, whose 25-year separatist insurgency was crushed in 2009, have proposed making Sri Lanka into a federal state that would grant significant power to widely autonomous provinces.
Sirisena also promised to resist attempts to prosecute Rajapaksa for war crimes allegedly committed in the final months of the civil war.
The United Nations Human Rights Council is investigating the Sri Lankan government and the defeated Tamil Tiger rebels for possible war crimes but Rajapaksa's government has refused to cooperate.