Sackings threaten Sri Lankan peace bid, says PM


  • AseanPlus News
  • Friday, 13 Feb 2004

COLOMBO: The Sri Lankan president's sacking of 39 junior ministers “seriously jeopardised” internationally backed efforts to end three decades of ethnic bloodshed, the rival prime minister said yesterday.  

Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe warned in a letter to President Chandrika Kumaratunga that her actions against his caretaker government in the run-up to April 2 elections undermined confidence-building measures with Tamil Tiger rebels. 

The premier said the president, who was elected separately from him and belongs to a different party, had effectively abolished the rehabilitation ministry and another responsible for Hindu religious affairs in the majority Buddhist country. 

Both ministries, which were run by junior ministers who were sacked, were trying to restore normalcy in the war-torn northern and eastern regions dominated by Tamils, who are predominantly Hindu. 

“The abolition will create serious difficulty in carrying forward the basic elements of the peace process and continuing the programme of assistance and rehabilitation which complement ongoing action on the peace process. 

“I have to point out that through these actions, you are seriously jeopardising the implementation of the peace process,” he said. 

He said the government could only honour part of the ceasefire agreement with the rebels as it had already lost powers over the security forces when Kumaratunga took over the ministries of defence, interior and information on Nov 4. 

The president on Saturday dissolved the parliament, where her party is in opposition, and called elections for April 2, nearly four years ahead of schedule. 

Kumaratunga has a long rivalry with the prime minister and disagrees with his handling of the peace process, which aims at ending the Tamil separatist conflict that has claimed more than 60,000 lives since 1972. 

The president sacked 39 ministers without cabinet rank three days ago along with all their support staff but announced the move only on Wednesday. – AFP  

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