Sri Lanka: crisis in the emerald island

Till 1978 the President of Sri Lanka was a ceremonial head of state while real executive power rested with the Prime Minister, but the promulgation of the new constitution changed all that. The President now wants to exercise her power and the Prime Minister is determined to keep his. Complicating the issue seriously is the memorandum of understanding signed by the Prime Minister with the Tamil Tigers in February 2002 ensuring a cease fire after nearly three decades of violence that has claimed more than 60,000 lives, displaced a million people, and damaged public and private property. The ceasefire achieved by Prime Minister Wickramsinghe has brought a welcome respite to this strife-torn island, once an emerald paradise. President Chandrika Kumaratunga has repeatedly said in the last few days that she wants the ceasefire and the peace negotiations to continue. She is probably sincere in this but seems not to see that the price she has to pay if the country is to be saved is allowing the Prime Minister to take the lead role. The deputy editor of a daily newspaper told the present writer the day after the crisis erupted that only God can help break the present deadlock. [HL31108] Fr. Paul Caspersz SJ