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 Wednesday, 15 January, 2003, 12:45 GMT
Sri Lanka peace row deepens
President Chandrika Kumaratunga at this year's independence day
Mrs Kumaratunga says she could sack the PM easily

Hopes for reconciliation between Sri Lanka's two main parties have faded further after the president threatened to sack the prime minister for his handling of the peace process.

Ranil Wickramasinghe
Wickramasinghe: Accused of jeopardising security
President Chandrika Kumaratunga publicly discussed the possibility of sacking her rival, Ranil Wickramasinghe, on a local television show on Tuesday.

She said she could remove him and his government with just one letter.

Observers now fear that tensions within Sri Lanka's government of cohabitation pose the biggest threat to the country's peace process.

'Duty'

President Kumaratunga said she would not hesitate to sack the prime minister if he continued to jeopardise national security.

And she said the whole world would support her decision.

Explaining her view of the current political situation, she said if a doctor was trying to kill a patient, was it not the duty of the doctor's boss to sack him?

The president also repeated complaints that she has not been properly informed and consulted about the peace process and that her views are not reflected accurately in the media.

Overall, however, she said she was fully committed to peace.

Sacking 'unlikely'

Many of the president's comments may have been aimed at boosting the morale of party supporters now out of power.

But the tone of her remarks also point to a failure of the prime minister to bring political opponents on board and overcome partisan differences in the national interest.

Tamil Tiger fighters in northern Sri Lanka
The rebels have maintained a year-long ceasefire
Mr Wickramasinghe has acknowledged the president's role in inviting the Norwegians to mediate in the peace process - but he has failed to share with her the credit for the successes so far in this peace initiative.

A suggestion that a presidential nominee take part in the negotiations with the rebels was rebuffed.

There has been no move either to include a presidential observer in the workings of the peace secretariat or in plans for reconstructing the north-east.

But it is unlikely the president will move to sack the prime minister although she does have the power to do so.

She may say the whole world will support her - but it is more likely there would be international protest and public outrage at a time when donors are becoming more involved in the peace process by pledging support and planning development projects.


Peace efforts

Background

BBC SINHALA SERVICE

BBC TAMIL SERVICE

TALKING POINT
See also:

03 Jan 03 | South Asia
02 Jan 03 | South Asia
26 Dec 02 | South Asia
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