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DATE=12/23/1999 TYPE=BACKGROUND REPORT TITLE=SRI LANKA VOTE ANALYSIS NUMBER=5-45099 BYLINE=JIM TEEPLE DATELINE=COLOMBO CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: In Sri Lanka, President Chandrika Kumaratunga won reelection to a second term in office this week - winning just over 51 percent of the vote to her nearest rival's 43 percent. The election was disrupted by suicide bomb blasts, blamed on Tamil Tiger separatists, that killed more than 35 people. Following her election victory President Kumaratunga called for peace in Sri Lanka, but as we hear from VOA's Jim Teeple in Colombo, Sri Lanka's president has few immediate options other than to press ahead with her military campaign against the Tamil Tigers. Text: Just four days after she narrowly escaped assassination by a suicide bomber, Chandrika Kumaratunga was sworn in to a second five year term at her official residence. The ceremony was hastily announced and sparsely attended, reflecting the security concerns which dominate the everyday life of politicians in Sri Lanka, who are under constant threat of assassination by Tamil Tiger suicide bombers. // OPT // With one eye covered in bandages - the result of a bomb attack she survived just days earlier -- Chandrika Kumaratunga declared she was more determined than ever to end the bloodshed in Sri Lanka. But she also declared that she would punish those responsible for the bomb attacks. She called on Sri Lanka's Tamil minority to reject the Tamil Tigers -- who for 16 years have waged a violent struggle to carve a separate homeland out of Tamil-dominated areas in northern and eastern Sri Lanka. //END OPT // Following her election victory, President Kumaratunga faces two tasks. Her most immediate concern is to reverse sharp military defeats her army has suffered recently in the northern Jaffna peninsula. Following a surprise offensive by the Tamil Tigers, which began about six weeks ago, Sri Lanka's army has lost much of the territory it captured from the Tigers three years ago. On the political front, in a bid to achieve a negotiated settlement to the war, the President must convince Sri Lanka's parliament to approve constitutional changes that would give greater autonomy to Tamil-dominated areas. Sunila Abeyesekera, directs INFORM, a leading human rights monitoring group in Sri Lanka. She says Chandrika Kumaratunga received a wave of sympathy from Sri Lanka's voters following the bomb attack against her, and she now has a rare opportunity to try and achieve a political settlement to Sri Lanka's long- running ethnic conflict. // ABEYESEKERA ACTUALITY // She is politically astute enough to see that she may now use this to her advantage. She might say, look, you know the LTTE (Tamil Tigers) tried to kill me, but still I believe in going for negotiations. I think that will give her a position of strength that she can draw on and I certainly hope that she does. // END ACTUALITY // Others however are not so sure that President Kumaratunga will have the ability or the will to end Sri Lanka's long-running war -- or get the necessary support in parliament to get her autonomy proposals for Tamil areas approved. Rohan Edrisinha, is a law professor at the University of Colombo, who is also a director of the Center for Policy Alternatives, a leading Colombo policy institute. He says most Tamils voted for Chandrika Kumaratunga's opponent in the election, Ranil Wickremesinghe. Because of that, he says President Kumaratunga is not likely to press ahead with any special measures to help Sri Lanka's Tamil minority. // EDRISINHA ACTUALITY // The indications are so far that the Tamils voted for Ranil Wickremesinghe. He did well in Trincomalee and in areas where the Tamil population is concentrated in Colombo. And that really makes them totally marginalized because they supported the candidate that has lost. That was probably because most Tamils found Ranil appealing because he was talking in terms of dealing with the LTTE (Tamil Tigers) and I think most Tamils feel that has to be done. They sort of have a love-hate relationship with the LTTE, but they feel that they have to be part of the solution or part of the whole process of negotiation. // END ACTUALITY // Rohan Edrishinha says Chandrika Kumaratunga is more likely to press ahead with a military solution to Sri Lanka's ethnic conflict. Since the election, Sri Lanka's Defense Minister (JIM, WE NEED THE NAME HERE) has said President Kumaratunga's victory was a vote of confidence for a tough stand against the Tamil Tigers. Sri Lanka's Defense Minister Anuradha Ratwatte says he expects Sri Lanka's president to approve measures to modernize the country's armed forces and improve the military's intelligence network - making it more effective in the fight against the Tamil Tigers. (Signed) neb/jlt/plm 23-Dec-1999 04:16 AM EDT (23-Dec-1999 0916 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .





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