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Friday, 22 June, 2001, 12:33 GMT 13:33 UK
Confidence vote looms in Sri Lanka
Chandrika Kumaratunga in parliament
Ms Kumaratunga's parliamentary majority is in doubt
The Sri Lankan Government is facing a confidence vote after a number of defections eroded the majority of President Chandrika Kumaratunga's ruling alliance in parliament.

The confidence motion, signed by 98 of the 116 MPs from the opposition United National Party, (UNP) follows the defection of a number of MPs from the governing People's Alliance.

There is, however, no immediate danger of the government's collapse as MPs must first decide when to debate the motion, and then vote on it.

The opposition says it is seeking the vote on the grounds that the government "cannot solve the pressing problems of the country and its people".

More than 63,000 people have died in Sri Lanka's civil war, which has lasted for nearly 18 years.

The government has recently raised taxes towards fighting rebels from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam group, who are demanding independence for minority Tamils in the north and east of the country.

All efforts towards starting peace talks have broken down.

Crisis meeting

President Kumaratunga has summoned the UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe for a meeting, said an unnamed party spokesman speaking, to the Associated Press.

Rauf Hakeem
Rauf Hakeem: Rocky relationship with the president
On Thursday, the president said she was confident that her government would remain in power.

However, the confidence motion comes as the government faces a major hurdle in attempting to pass laws extending the state of nationwide emergency on 6 July.

The crisis began when the president sacked the Minister of Trade and Shipping Rauf Hakeem - one of her key Muslim allies - from her cabinet without explanation.

Mr Hakeem then withdrew from the alliance along with six of his 10 colleagues from the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress party, who then moved to the opposition side.

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See also:

16 May 01 | South Asia
Muslims demand Sri Lanka talks role
13 Oct 00 | South Asia
New government for Sri Lanka
11 Oct 00 | South Asia
Analysis: Time for co-operation?
10 Oct 00 | South Asia
Violence mars Sri Lanka poll
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