Sri Lankan SC wants polls held this year: Ruling cuts short Chandrika’s final term

Colombo, August 26:

Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court today said the nation’s presidential election must be held this year — effectively ending President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s final term a year earlier than she had hoped, and possibly moving the peace process with Tamil rebels to the back-burner.

“The negative side of this (election) is that nothing is going to happen until the elections are over,” said Jehan Perera of the National Peace Council, an independent think tank focusing on the stalled peace talks.

“In the forthcoming talks to strengthen the ceasefire you can’t expect any breakthrough,” he said. The decision is a win for the opposition, which disputed a claim by the president’s ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party that Kumaratunga was entitled to remain in office until December 2006 because she called a snap election a year before her first six-year term ended. The date for the polls will be decided by the election commissioner. Kumaratunga’s party downplayed the impact of the ruling. “Here we have a chance of appointing a leader who will ensure national security instead of someone who works closely with the LTTE,” said Siripathi Sooriyaarachchi, deputy minister of sports. The main opposition candidate, Ranil Wickremesinghe, today welcomed the ruling.

More security for PM


Sri Lanka has beefed up the security of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse following threats to his life, Xinhua quoted the state radio as saying. The Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation said Rajapakse, also the ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) party’s presidential candidate, has been advised to curtail his public engagements and travel. — HNS

New Lankan FM on India visit


Sri Lanka’s new Foreign Minister Anura Bandaranaike, whose predecessor was assassinated two weeks ago, held talks with his Indian counterpart Natwar Singh on Friday on his first official visit abroad. “The talks covered issues of bilateral interest,” said an Indian official who asked not to be named. — AFP