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VOICE OF AMERICA
SLUG: 2-314629 Sri Lanka (L-O)
DATE:
NOTE NUMBER:

DATE=03/31/04

TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT

TITLE=SRI LANKA ELECTIONS (L-O)

NUMBER=2-314629

BYLINE=PATRICIA NUNAN

DATELINE=COLOMBO

CONTENT=

VOICED AT:

INTRO: Voters in Sri Lanka are going to the polls Friday for a parliamentary election to resolve the country's long-running political deadlock between the president and prime minister. Meanwhile, tensions are increasing within the guerrilla Tamil Tiger group, which in recent weeks has divided into two factions that may go to war against each other. V-O-A's Patricia Nunan is in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo.

TEXT: It is the third election held in Sri Lanka in just four years - and analysts say it may do little to end the political stalemate between President Chandrika Kumaratunga and her rival, the prime minister.

For months, the two leaders have struggled for power. The chief issue is how to end more than two decades of fighting between government forces and the Tamil rebels.

The feud has many Sri Lankans worried that negotiations with the rebels will collapse, prompting both leaders to campaign on peace promises.

Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu is an analyst with the Center for Policy Alternatives.

/// ACT SARAVANAMUTTU ///

Both are projecting themselves as people who would be able to take the process forward. they want to present themselves as being the ones who are able to take the peace process forward and deliver a just, durable and lasting peace.

/// END ACT ///

President Kumaratunga set off the crisis in November when she exercised her constitutional right to seize control of three government ministries - including defense, long considered the most important to the peace process. The ministry had belonged to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Months of discussions have failed to lead to a breakthrough. Analysts say that neither might win a parliamentary majority in this election and the deadlock will continue.

Sri Lanka's political situation got a lot more complicated last month when an unprecedented rift tore the Tamil Tigers in half. A commander known as Karuna leads the new faction.

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The two sides are facing off across a river in eastern Sri Lankan near the town of Batticaloa. Karuna's brother, Commander Vinayagomoorthy Sivanesathura, says they are ready to fight.

/// ACT VINAYAGOMOORTHY, EST & FADE ///

He says if the other Tigers attack them and if there is loss of life or injury, then for self-defense they may have to attack them.

On Tuesday, a Tamil parliamentary candidate considered an ally to Commander Karuna was assassinated in Batticaloa. It is not known who killed him, but Commander Sivanesathura believes it was the northern faction of the Tamil Tigers. (SIGNED)

NEB/HK/PN/MH/RAE



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