VARIOUS: SRI LANKA'S PRESIDENT CHANDRIKA KUMARATUNGA DECLARES STATE OF EMERGENCY AS PRIME MINISTER RANIL WICKREMESINGHE VISITS THE U.S.Record ID: 677343
- Title: VARIOUS: SRI LANKA'S PRESIDENT CHANDRIKA KUMARATUNGA DECLARES STATE OF EMERGENCY AS PRIME MINISTER RANIL WICKREMESINGHE VISITS THE U.S.
- Date: 7th November 2003
- Summary: (W3) COLOMBO, SRI LANKA (NOVEMBER 5, 2003) (REUTERS) SLV STREET; MV NEWSPAPER KIOSK; SCU NEWSPAPER HEADLINES SAYING 'LANKA IN TURMOIL' (3 SHOTS)
- Reuters ID: LVA1WL9JCV6KAJGHPEUDJ72MJDY5
- Location: COLOMBO, SRI LANKA / WASHINGTON, D.C., UNITED STATES
- Country: Sri Lanka
- Duration: 00:00:20
- Topics: General,Politics
- Story Text: Sri Lanka's President Chandrika Kumaratunga has
declared a state of emergency as her Prime Minister visits
Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga declared
a state of emergency on Wednesday (November 5, 2003), giving
herself more powers in a bare-knuckled political fight with
the prime minister that is threatening the peace with Tamil
Kumaratunga was sharply critical of government efforts
to end the war with rebel Tamil Tigers over a separate
state for minority Tamils.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who at first
warned of chaos and anarchy, on Wednesday tried to play
down the crisis during an official visit to Washington. He
said he would "sort it out" when he returned home on
Wickremesinghe was in Washington when Kumaratunga, who
is elected separately, sacked the defence, interior and
media ministers on Tuesday and suspended parliament.
The state of emergency, a draconian law that allows
detention for up to one year without charge, now widens
Kumaratunga's powers and those of the military and includes
bans on public assembly.
Despite the political paralysis, a presidential adviser
said Kumaratunga would not end a 20-month truce with the
Tamil Tigers, who seek a separate homeland for minority
Kumaratunga has openly disagreed with Wickremesinghe
over the peace process, saying the government was making
too many concessions to the rebels.
"I have specifically been authorized by President
Kumaratunga to state that the ceasefire agreement stands
and will stand, there is no question about that,"
Presidential advisor Lakshman Kadirgamar told reporters,
adding, "The president has no intention of resuming or
provoking the resumption of hostilities."
Although a small number of troops were deployed at key
installations in Colombo, the capital was otherwise calm.
Cabinet spokesman G.L. Peiris said even though
parliament was suspended until November 19, the government
was in no danger of losing its majority in the legislature.
"The government of Ranil Wickremesinghe continues to
enjoy the confidence of the vast majority of members of
parliament," said Peiris, "Now that is the basis fact which
we need to recognise, everything else flows from that. This
is a government that was elected by the people of Sri Lanka
on the 5th of December 2001. We have received an
overwhelming mandate from the people in subsequent
elections that were held in March and in May 2002, for the
local authorities and the provincials. And we are firmly in
control of parliament," said Peiris.
He said: "The declaration of a state of emergency is of
course within the powers of the president.... We respect
the laws of this land and the laws of this land confer upon
Her Excellency, the president, the power to declare a state
of emergency. But that state of emergency has to be
endorsed by parliament, within 14 days."
Kumaratunga's shock moves raised questions about the
future of the prime minister and the direction of the peace
bid. But Wickremesinghe smiled and looked relaxed as he
talked to reporters in Washington after meeting President
George W. Bush.
Wickremesinghe told reporters at the White House, "This
is not the first crisis I have had. When I go back, I'll
sort it out. We have the majority in parliament, and we'll
get the peace process on track."
The prime minister is in open political combat with Sri
Lanka's president who one day earlier sacked three of the
country's most powerful ministers, suspended parliament and
ordered troops to guard key installations. The actions,
taken while Wickremesinghe was on an official visit to
Washington, raise questions about his political future and
the prospects for ending the war with the Liberation Tigers
of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels.
"No, I have not been in touch with the LTTE. The
Norwegians are in touch with the LTTE. I know their
reaction to the Norwegians. I have a mandate to bring peace
to the country," Wickremesinghe said.
Wickremesinghe described the moves by arch-rival
President Chandrika Kumaratunga as desperate and
irresponsible and said they could plunge the country into
chaos and anarchy. Kumaratunga also declared a state of
emergency on Wednesday, giving herself more powers.
Analysts said it was difficult to predict what would
come next until Wickremesinghe's return.
The crisis erupted just days after the Liberation
Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) released a proposal on
power-sharing that the government said was a basis for
Kumaratunga's party sharply criticised the proposals,
but Kadirgamar said it was the president's belief that the
security situation was deteriorating that led to her
But Kumaratunga's moves have already created unease
among Tamils, who fear arbitrary arrests and a return to
The 20-year civil war pits the Tamil rebels against a
government dominated by the majority Sinhalese community.
Prime Minister Wickremesinghe returns to Sri Lanka on
Friday (November 7).
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