Colombo: Battling a flurry of defections and accused of sending troops to the Tamil-dominated northern region to prevent them from voting in the January 8 polls, Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Friday appealed to the minority community to trust him and vote for his party.
"There is a saying that the known devil is better than the unknown angel", Rajapaksa said addressing a rally in Jaffna, the erstwhile stronghold of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE).
Rajapaksa said his rival, the opposition unity candidate Maithripala Sirisena, is a stranger to northerners whilst he as president had done much to serve the Tamils.
"I have given you electricity and improved everything for you", he said.
His Jaffna visit came after the main Tamil party, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), decided to back Sirisena.
Rajapaksa also faulted the TNA-run northern provincial council.
"They did not use the money given to them to work for you," he alleged.
The opposition had yesterday alleged that the government had deployed soldiers to keep the Tamil voters away from polls.
TNA won over 85 per cent of the vote and routed Rajapaksa's ruling coalition in the September 2013 provincial election.
A low Tamil turn out is expected to help the incumbent in the direct contest between him and Sirisena.
While Rajapakse is popular among the majority Sinhalese community, he is disliked by many Tamils after the military crushed the LTTE in 2009.
Meanwhile Rajapaksa suffered the 26th defection of a parliamentarian from his party to the opposition ranks since his announcement of snap polls seeking a third term.
Achala Jagoda of the ruling coalition, the United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA), joined Sirisena in the endless stream of defections.