President fears cabinet ambush

[TamilNet, Sunday, 14 July 2002, 00:57 GMT]
The war of words between Sri Lanka’s President Chandrika Kumaratunga and the Parliamentary government of Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe escalated this week with the President telling a meeting of her Sri Lanka Freedom Party that attending cabinet meetings posed a threat to her life, the Sunday Leader reported.

While her audience listened in stunned silence, the President said when she attends cabinet meetings, she is not sure whether they would try to kill her but if an attempt was made she would get one of them first in defending herself, the paper reported.

"I will jump on Ranil and bite his neck, if any attempt is made on me," Kumaratunga had told the meeting last Sunday, according to the Sunday Leader.

Speaking further, the president had said the government was identifying weak links in her security system and the possibility of identifying such a person and bribing him to kill her in a manner similar to Indira Gandhi cannot be ruled out.

She said however that while it is not possible for her to take over the defence portfolio at this point of time, she would be in a position to do so once the SLFP is reorganised and the people mobilised against the United National Front (UNF) government.

Kumaratunga’s People’s Alliance (PA) coalition - of which the SLFP is the main constituent - was swept from power by the United National Front (UNF) last December.

The rivalry between Kumaratunga and the government of Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe heightened this week amid newspaper reports the UNF was planning to impeach the President. Kumaratunga can remain in office until 2005 despite the PA’s defeat as she was elected separately in 1999 to a six-year term.

"The government is already unpopular and even the peace song is about to breakdown. Therefore before long we can see the back of this government, but to do that and enable me to act, I must get the people behind us,” the President was quoted as telling her party workers.

Kumaratunga is however embroiled in a financial scandal regarding imports of foreign cars. A cabinet sub committee report on the matter will be tabled Wednesday, The Sunday Leader said, adding that the evidence available so far implicates both President Kumaratunga and former treasury secretary P. B. Jayasundera of violating government regulations in making the luxury purchases.


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