Defence portfolio to end war eludes UNP

[TamilNet, Sunday, 09 December 2001, 04:44 GMT]
The state run Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation, quoting a communique from the Presidential Secretariat, Sunday denied a report that the leader of the United National Party, Mr. Ranil Wickrmesinghe, who is to be sworn in as Sri Lanka’s new Prime Minister this afternoon, would be appointed the Minister of Defense. The UNP cannot satisfactorily fulfill its pledge to end the war unless it has the Ministry of Defence, particularly because the President is the Commander of the Sri Lankan armed forces, party sources in Colombo said. The Ministry of Finance, however, has been offered to the UNP, according to them. The Tamil National Alliance says that it will give the UNP six months to bring about a cessation of hostilities and lift the embargo on the Vanni. The UNP, however, should have the Ministry of Defence if it were to meet these demands without hindrance, analysts say.

The denial of the report that Mr. Wickremesinghe has been offered the Ministry of Defence by the Presidential Secretariat indicates that UNP is going to face a hurdle in securing the key portfolio, sources said.

The Sri Lankan President has been categorical that she would make no concessions to the Liberation Tigers unless they give up separatism and arms.

Critics in the UNP say that the President may keep the MoD under her to continue the war and scuttle Mr. Wickremesinghe’s plans to establish peace and rebuild the economy.

Control over MoD would give the President the leverage she needs to continue as an important influence on the island’s affairs for the UNP would be forced to negotiate with her on key issues for preparing the ground for peace negotiations or stopping the war, analysts say.

“Faced with the grim prospect of being reduced to a figurehead or being impeached by a hostile Parliament which has control over finance and legislation, the President is like to cling on to the MoD”, a senior political analyst with a Sinhala weekly told Tamilnet.

 

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