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Political Crisis in Sri Lanka

News & Analysis


November 04, 2003 - President Chandrika Kumaratunga sacks three key ministers (Defence Minister Tilak Marapona, Interior Minister John Amaratunga, and Mass Communications Minister Imitiaz Bakeer Makar) and prorogues Parliament until November 19. Eleven members of the ruling UNP pledge their support for a new government.

• The People’s Alliance alleges that the ruling party has been engaged in a secret mission to oust President Chandrika Kumaratunga in parliament later this month. The move by key ministers was to involve the presentation of an impeachment motion against the President after an impeachment motion against the Chief Justice was tabled in parliament.

• President Chandrika Kumaratunga in her address to the nation says she has acted constitutionally in the national interest and is willing to continue discussions with the LTTE towards a just and balanced solution to the national problem (also) .

• In a statement issued from Washington, Sri Lanka Prime Minister Ranil Wikremasinghe says the president's unprecedented move was aimed at sabotaging the bid to end separatist warring by Tamil Tiger rebels and at pushing the country into a political crisis.

November 05, 2003 - President Chandrika Kumaratunga declares a state of emergency.

• The beleaguered government fights to regain ground. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe rushes back from the US, demanding the reconvening of parliament which Kumaratunga ordered suspended till November 19, effectively prohibiting the government from presenting the annual budget on Nov. 12. Parliamentarians from the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) express their support in writing for a motion of vote of confidence in the United National Front government.

• US President George W Bush, during a meeting with Wickremesinghe at the White House, expresses strong support for the PM's leadeship and his commitment to peace.

• While the International Monetary Fund warns that confidence in the economy could suffer, the UN, India & Japan voice concern about the impact the crisis on the peace process (also). China hopes Sri Lanka's peace process with the Tamil Tigers will continue and urges maintainance of peace and stability in the country.

November 07, 2003 - State of emergency is withdrawn (also). Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe arrives in Sri Lanka. LTTE says it will wait until crisis is over.

November 08, 2003 - President calls for a government of national reconciliation while the government seeks support from political parties to reconvene parliament.

November 09, 2003 - The Prime Minister offers leadership on the peace process as the Tamil parties discuss the crisis.

November 10, 2003 - The President invites PM to discuss managing the crisis. The government says it is ready for snap elections to resolve the crisis (also).

November 11, 2003 - Norwegian peace envoys arrive. PM meets the President.

November 12, 2003 - The President-PM talks end without compromise but agree to meet next week.

November 13, 2003 - The President postpones merger referendum in north & east Sri Lanka.



News & Analysis

South Asian View Point
International Press


South Asian Viewpoint

Sri lanka I Bangladesh I Bhutan I India I Maldives I Nepal I Pakistan

On the brink again, South Asia Intelligence Review, November 10, 2003
One would expect LTTE demands, a solid foundation for a separate state, to cause a political storm. Instead, causing increasing uncertainty over the peace process is an entirely different issue - a confrontation between the ruling United National Front (UNF) Government and the main opposition People's Alliance (PA).

Sri Lanka

Growing consensus for political solution, Daily News, November 13, 2003
What is most encouraging in the position taken by the Maha Sangha on the current political crisis is that they are for an united effort among the political parties of the South for the bringing of ethnic peace.

Rising to the occasion, The Island, Colombo, November 09, 2003
Some good can and often does emerge from the crucible of confrontation. It remains to be seen whether President Kumaratunga’s offer, if that’s what it was, of a "grand alliance" to form a government of national reconciliation and reconstruction, can be fashioned to Sri Lanka’s advantage at this decisive moment of history.

Amend executive presidency & election system, Colombo Page, November 08, 2003
The Sri Lanka Communist Party says a permanent solution to the present crisis could be found in the amendment of the executive presidency and the election system.

Don't distort situation in Sri Lanka: Tourism Minister, Daily News, Colombo, November 07, 2003
Tourism Minister Gamini Lokuge yesterday urged the international media not to distort the true position in Sri Lanka and deter tourists from visiting the country. "The conflict between the executive and legislature has been described as a civil war by certain factions of the international press which is totally unfounded," he said calling for "more responsible media coverage...The wrong interpretations given to what is merely a political crisis could seriously affect tourism," the Minister said.

Constitutional coup, says Socialist equality party, Daily Mirror, Colombo, November 07, 2003
The Socialist Equality Party (SEP), Sri Lankan section of the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI), has strongly condemned the anti-democratic seizure of power by Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga. At the centre of the struggle over control of the state is a conflict within the ruling elite over the UNF government's attempts to end the country's devastating 20-year civil war as the means for opening up the island as a cheap labour platform for foreign investors.

Half coup or full coup? The Island, Colombo, November 07, 2003
This power struggle has already wreaked havoc on the economy with the crash of the stock market and cancellation of group tourist flights. Where will this political crisis take us? It certainly doesn’t have any indications of showing a way out of the woods. Even if the crisis fizzles out, is the status quo any better?

President supreme in Lanka's defence, Daily News, Colombo, November 06, 2003
The President is supreme relating to Sri Lanka's defence, the Supreme Court states in its determination consequent to the opinion sought by the President from the Supreme Court regarding the subject.

Party & power main concerns, Daily Mirror, Colombo, November 06, 2003
Concerns of party and power rather than the national interest and the country's well-being appear to be driving the two main parties to myopic acts of political aggression that will expose the country to certain danger.

The Chinese curse on Lanka, The Island, Colombo, November 05, 2003
The Chinese curse: ‘May you live in interesting times’, appears to have been cast on the present generations of Sri Lankans who have certainly been living in ‘interesting times’ for about two decades, going on from crisis to crisis with the nation sinking deeper and deeper into the mire.

SLMC rebels extend fullest support to president, Colombo Page, November 04, 2003
The rebel faction of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) has decided to extend their fullest support to President Chandrika Kumaratunga for the formation of a new government.



Sri Lanka: Unresolved conflicts, The Independent, Dhaka, November 07, 2003
For years Sri Lanka has been struggling to strengthen their economy, uplift literacy, and eradicate poverty much like any other developing country. For the most part they have been rather successful in this national plan. Their literacy rate is prominently one of the most flourishing among similar sects and this self-efficient country has made lucrative use of their natural resources.

Crisis deepens in Sri Lanka, Daily Star, Dhaka, November 06, 2003
The mercury of Sri Lankan politics rises and dips without much pre-warning, as is the case with nations plagued by sectarian and centrifugal tensions. Days after Tamil Tigers offered to share power, something went fatally wrong in the island nation. President Kumaratunga exercised her prerogatives boding what looks like a constitutional coup on November 4 while the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister were on an official visit to Washington.



Lanka landslide, Times of India, Mumbai, November 07, 2003
For democracy in South Asia, it is crisis time once again. In Sri Lanka, president Chandrika Kumaratunga has precipitated a dangerous constitutional impasse by striking at the heart of prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe's popularly elected government.

The divided Island, Indian Express, Mumbai, November 06, 2003
Many would maintain that, surprising as it was, Tuesday’s potential constitutional crisis in Sri Lanka was in the making for some time. Tensions were building up on many counts and on many fronts, especially after the peace talks were suspended in April last.

Lanka media turns Prez-friendly, Times of India, Mumbai, November 06, 2003
After nearly two years of criticising President Chandrika Kumaratunga, Sri Lanka's state-run media shifted allegiance sharply on Thursday after she sacked the island's media minister.

Sri Lanka - uncertainity over issues of governance, The Hindu, Chennai, November 06, 2003
By asserting her constitutional powers, the Sri Lankan President, Chandrika Kumaratunga, has jolted the ruling United National Front (UNF) into reviewing the status of the island's first real cohabitation government.

Sri Lanka in crisis again, The Hindu, Chennai, November 06, 2003
Sri Lanka's two-year-old cohabitation experiment now stands at the edge of collapse. The responsibility for precipitating the crisis lies not with President Chandrika Kumaratunga, as Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has alleged, but with his Government's adventurist move to impeach, first, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and, then, the President herself.

Talks only way out for Sri Lanka, The Hindu, Chennai, November 06, 2003
The Indian External Affairs Minister, Yashwant Sinha, today called on Sri Lankan leaders to resolve differences among themselves through dialogue, even as the country's President, Chandrika Kumaratunga, cancelled her scheduled visit to New Delhi from Friday.

Political crisis deepens in Sri Lanka, PTI, India, November 05, 2003
The political crisis in Sri Lanka deepened today with President Chandrika Kumaratunga declaring a state of emergency, a day after sacking three key ministers and suspending parliament, throwing the peace process undertaken by arch-rival Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in uncertainity.

Chandrika sacks three ministers, Deccan Herald, Bangalore, November 05, 2003
Sri Lanka plunged into an unprecedented political turmoil today when President Chandrika Kumaratunga arbitrarily sacked three key Cabinet ministers and prorogued Parliament for 15 days. President Kumaratunga’s action comes at a time when her uneasy cohabitation partner Ranil Wickremesinghe is away in Washington for an official meeting with US President George W Bush.

Lankan Govt in crisis, Times of India, Mumbai, November 04, 2003
Sri Lanka's government was plunged into crisis and its peace process imperilled on Tuesday when the president deployed troops around the capital and fired three key ministers who were trying to coax Tamil rebels back into talks to end a 20-year civil war.

Ranil accuses Chandrika of creating anarchy, The Hindu, Chennai, November 04, 2003
Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe today accused President Chandrika Kumaratunga of trying to create "chaos and anarchy," hours after she prorogued Parliament, fired three senior Ministers and deployed troops in several government installations.



Sri Lanka: Turbulence & uncertainity, Kathmandhu Post, November 12, 2003
On November 4, Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga fired the defence, interior and information ministers; ordered a short-term suspension of parliament; deployed troops around Colombo; and, a day later, announced a state of emergency.


Crisis in Sri Lanka, Dawn, Karachi, November 06, 2003
President Kumaratunga surely would not want to be held responsible for a breakdown in the peace process. She should not push relations with the prime minister and his coalition government to a breaking point.

Sri Lankan president slams Tiger peace bid, Daily Times, Lahore, November 06, 2003
Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga Tuesday rejected a Tamil Tiger peace plan as a foundation for partition and warned the international community not to force a solution on the war-torn island.


International Press

Sri Lankan political struggle persists, China Daily, China, November 13, 2003
The first face-to-face talks between Sri Lanka's president and prime minister since their power struggle erupted into a political crisis last week ended yesterday without a breakthrough, a prime minister's spokesman said.

Sri Lanka's crisis, IHT, USA, November 13, 2003
Last week, while her prime minister was visiting Washington, President Chandrika Kumaratunga of Sri Lanka pulled something of an internal coup, suspending Parliament and taking over control of the news media and the security forces.

No progress in Sri Lankan talks, BBC, UK, November 12, 2003
Sri Lanka's president and prime minister have agreed to meet again, after inconclusive talks to ease the country's constitutional crisis.

India pulls Sri Lankan strings, Asia Times, Hong Kong, November 11, 2003
A two-pronged intervention by India and the United States over the past several days has helped avert a full-blown crisis in Sri Lanka, following President Chandrika Kumaratunga's peremptory sacking of three cabinet ministers.

Political issues in Sri Lankan constitutional crisis, WSWS, November 10, 2003
While personal idiosyncrasies and rivalries play their role, the latest political turmoil is a product of a series of international economic and strategic shifts that have compelled the Sri Lankan bourgeoisie to make a far-reaching and abrupt change in their basic orientation.

Sri Lankan president makes bid for power, New York Times, November 09, 2003
This week, former supporters and advisers are asking what went wrong with the woman who has been Sri Lanka's president since 1994.

Sri Lankan political showdown, China Daily, November 08, 2003
The animosity between Kumaratunga and Wickremesinghe has so destabilised domestic politics for nearly a decade that some in Sri Lanka say peace between the two is more important than peace with the Tigers.

Sri Lankan president rescinds decree, Sydney Morning Herald, Australia, November 08, 2003
Sri Lanka's state of emergency was lifted yesterday as the Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, returned home, demanding that the country's suspended parliament be recalled immediately.

Sri Lankan president lifts emegency, BBC, UK, November 07, 2003
Sri Lanka's state of emergency was lifted yesterday as the Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, returned home, demanding that the country's suspended parliament be recalled immediately.

Woman behind Sri Lanka's turmoil, Christian Science Monitor, USA, November 07, 2003
Observers see the president's surprise state of emergency as a bid to remain at political center stage.

Sri Lankan showdown, Reuters Alertnet, USA, November 06, 2003
A showdown loomed in Sri Lanka's bitter political crisis as the embattled prime minister headed home to confront a president who made a power grab while he was overseas and threatened the peace he built with Tamil rebels.

Sri Lanka peace process on ropes, Asia Times, Hong Kong, November 06, 2003
The firing by Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga on Tuesday of three ministers and subsequent declaration of a state of emergency have triggered a major uproar, but even these dramatic events are unlikely to upset the peace process and a 20-month long ceasefire with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) , analysts say.

Dimming the prospects for peace, Economist, UK, November 05, 2003
Political conflict between Sri Lanka’s president and prime minister risks wrecking the best chance so far of resolving the 20-year civil war with Tamil separatists.

Analysis: Sri Lanka's uncertain future, BBC, UK, November 04, 2003
The move by President Kumaratunga to seize control of the security apparatus of the country has taken most Sri Lankans completely by surprise.

Sri Lanka thrown into political crisis, BBC, UK, November 04, 2003
Parliament is suspended and troops guard key installations as president and prime minister fall out over the peace process. Her move has taken the country into uncharted constitutional territory, and thrown the peace process with Tamil Tigers into question.

Q & A: Sri Lanka crisis, BBC, UK, November 04, 2003
BBC News Online takes a look at key issues concerning President Chandrika Kumaratunga's sacking of three ministers and suspension of parliament.

Political crisis hits Sri Lanka, CNN, USA, November 04, 2003
Sri Lanka's President Chandrika Kumaratunga has deployed troops to key buildings in Colombo, hours after she removed three powerful ministers from their posts in cabinet.

Sri Lanka president sacks ministers, Reuters Alertnet, USA, November 04, 2003
Sri Lanka's president sacked three ministers on Tuesday, suspended parliament and ordered troops to guard key installations, infuriating the prime minister and sparking a crisis that threatens the peace with Tamil rebels.

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