Marxists issue Lankan prez June 16 deadline

Associated Press

Colombo, June 10:

Threaten to quit govt if ‘deal’ not scrapped.

Sri Lanka’s plan to jointly dole out tsunami aid with Tamil Tiger rebels fell into serious doubt today when a key political party said it would quit the ruling government coalition unless the plan is scrapped by midnight Wednesday. If the Marxist People’s Liberation Front withdraws from President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s ruling coalition, the government could collapse. There was no immediate response from the government on whether it would scrap the deal or go forward, but senior presidential aides said hectic discussions were taking place on the matter at Kumaratunga’s official residence. Her government has been negotiating a deal with the Tigers to share the distribution of billions of dollars in tsunami aid to Tamil-majority areas under rebel control, where rebels have complained that aid didn’t arrive fast enough following

the December 26 tsunami.

Kumaratunga has vigorously promoted the deal as a way of forging peace with the Tigers.

The Marxists joined the country’s influential Buddhist clergy in opposing the emerging deal, arguing it could help the guerrillas achieve their goal of carving out a separate state. Today the party gave the government a deadline of midnight Wednesday to renounce the plan. Party leader Somawansa Amarasinghe told a news conference his party would not allow the government to enter a pact “with a terrorist organisation that is not accountable to anybody other than their guns”. “The president has no right to share the sovereignty of this country,” Amarasinghe said. “If the president is not going to withdraw this idea, we will be leaving the government on June 16.” The Marxists hold 39 crucial seats in Kumaratunga’s 117-seat majority in the 225-member Parliament.

Amarasinghe also slammed Kumaratunga for being “undemocratic and dictatorial”. pposition to the proposed deal has hit fever pitch this week with Buddhist monks engaging in protest fasts and top clergymen warning Kumaratunga against going forward. Shops and businesses in Kandy closed today in support of senior monk Omalpe Sobith, who was refusing all food and liquid for a fifth day to protest the plan. The National Heritage Party, a monk political party, warned yesterday they would be forced to resort to “undemocratic moves”, unless the deadline was heeded. HSR Wijemanna, a doctor who reviewed Sobith’s condition today, said the monk’s “condition is not satisfactory at all, it is slowly but surely going down.”