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President Chandrika Kumaratunga
"There is something special somebody, somewehere wants me to do"
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The BBC's Clayre Gribben
"In recent weeks the Tigers have made significant gains"
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The BBC's correspondent George Arney reports:
"One eye is still bruised and closed"
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Thursday, 30 December, 1999, 08:46 GMT
Sri Lankan president partially blinded

President Chandrika Kumaratunga President Chandrika Kumaratunga: "A messenger of peace"

The President of Sri Lanka, Chandrika Kumaratunga, has been told by doctors that she will probably be permanently blind in one eye following an assassination attempt.

Probably I have lost the sight of one eye
President Chandrika Kumaratunga
The president, who is in London for medical treatment, narrowly escaped with her life when a suspected Tamil Tiger suicide bomber attacked her campaign rally.

The attack on the president two weeks ago and another bomb at an opposition rally left at least 35 people dead and more than 100 injured.

Conflict in Sri Lanka
  • An unwinnable war?
  • Timeline of conflict
  • Leading the Tigers
  • The ethnic divide
  • In an exclusive interview with the former BBC Sri Lanka correspondent George Arney, the president, whose eye was still bruised and closed, said she was not "hysterical" about her injury, despite the loss of sight.

    She said: "Medically [the doctors say] I can carry on but probably I have lost the sight of one eye."

    Asked if she would be afraid to go out now she replied, "I'm surprised that I don't feel fear", adding that "I feel that there is something special that somebody somewhere wants me to do."

    Messenger of peace

    She said she believed she had survived because she was meant to be a "messenger of peace".

    She was determined to continue negotiating with the Tamil Tigers she said, despite the attempt on her life, and said that everything short of an independent state was negotiable.

    I'm surprised that I don't feel fear
    President Kumaratunga
    But she alleged that Tamil Tiger leader Velupillai Prabakharan had "an obsessive fear of peace", and she urged Tamils outside of Sri Lanka to cut off funding to the separatist guerrillas.

    There has been fierce fighting in the past few weeks on the causeway that links the Jaffna peninsula to the mainland.

    The Tigers, who captured two military bases earlier this month, have also taken the strategically important town of Paranthan, which is on the main highway to Jaffna.

    Sri Lankan troops have responded with a counter-offensive known as Operation Ceaseless Waves III, and have put up a strong resistance to the Tiger advance.

    Secret mediation

    President Kumaratunga revealed for the first time in her BBC interview that international mediators have been trying to broker a peace deal with the Tigers for over two years.

    ballot box Mrs Kumaratunga won 51% of vote in the presidential elections
    The first attempt was by the Commonwealth Secretary General Chief Anyoku, and more recently by the Norwegian Government.

    Both attempts proved fruitless, she said.

    She now intends to use the popular mandate she won in last week's presidential poll to devolve power to Tamil-dominated areas, despite lacking the two-thirds majority in parliament needed to do so.

    She said she plans to go ahead regardless, despite the possibility of legal challenges, and said that it would happen "fast".

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    See also:
    30 Dec 99 |  South Asia
    Extracts from President Kumaratunga's interview
    17 Dec 99 |  South Asia
    Chandrika Kumaratunga: Politics in the blood
    22 Dec 99 |  South Asia
    Kumaratunga promises end to hatred
    26 Dec 99 |  South Asia
    Twelve dead in Sri Lanka flare-up
    19 Dec 99 |  South Asia
    Appeal for calm in Sri Lanka
    22 Dec 99 |  South Asia
    Analysis: War likely to continue
    18 Dec 99 |  South Asia
    Analysis: Fifteen years of bloodshed
    17 Dec 99 |  South Asia
    Tigers 'take key base'

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