Chandrika says govt won’t collapse

Associated Press

Colombo, June 17:

Sri Lanka’s president vowed that her government would not collapse despite her coalition’s break-up over a plan to share tsunami relief with the Tamil Tiger rebels, and a Norwegian mediator was due to visit for talks with the government and rebels next week. The formal pullout yesterday of the Marxist People’s Liberation Front’s 39 lawmakers left President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s coalition with a minority of 81 seats in the 225-member Parliament.

It comes as Sri Lanka tries to shore up a fragile cease-fire and restart a long-stalled peace process amid increasing violence in the east, blamed on fighting between rebel factions. The Marxists had demanded that Kumaratunga renounce the relief-sharing plan by Wednesday midnight. The front’s chief, Somawansa Amerasinghe, said the government’s hold on power would “vanish within weeks” after his party left. But Kumaratunga insisted she had the backing

of most Sri Lankans. “I wish to say that the government will not shake because of this. There is no such instability,” she said. Norway’s Deputy Foreign Minister Vidar Helgesen was scheduled to arrive in Sri Lanka on Monday for talks with Kumaratunga and the Tigers leaders, said Norwegian Embassy spokesman Tom Knappskog.

UK backs deal

COLOMBO: Britain has backed Sri Lanka over its proposed deal with the Tamil Tiger rebels on tsunami aid distribution, reports Xinhua. Visiting British Development Minister Gareth Thomas underlined the importance of setting up a joint mechanism with the LTTE for tsunami relief coordination in the northern and eastern areas of the country that are controlled by the rebels. — HNS