Wednesday, Dec 24, 2003
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By V.S. Sambandan
The issue, which was discussed in political circles on and off since Ms. Kumaratunga's second inauguration as President on December 22, 1999, shot into the public domain earlier this week with The Sunday Times reporting that the President would ``remain in office until November 11, 2006'' instead of December 2005, which is six years after she was sworn-in for a second term.
However, the debate could be short-lived as the Sri Lankan Constitution says that if an election for the President is held, ``the term of office of the person elected as President at such election shall commence on the expiration of the term of office of the President in office''.
The Constitution sets a two-term limit for an elected President. Ms. Kumaratunga, who was first elected President in November 1994, sought the public mandate again in December 1999, one year before her first term expired. After winning the elections on December 18, 1999, Ms. Kumaratunga took office for a second term on December 22, 1999. The President's address to the nation the same day was officially described as one delivered after her ``second inauguration.''
The Sunday Times had claimed that a ``secret ceremony'' was held on November 11, 2000, thereby giving the President a term till November 2006. There is no confirmation from Presidential circles on this supposed ``secret ceremony''. The timing of the President's second term gains significance against Sri Lanka's divided domestic political backdrop, with the Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, the most likely candidate from the United National Party (UNP) for the next Presidential election.
As Ms. Kumaratunga cannot contest another term, there is still no clarity on who would be the candidate from the People's Alliance (PA) led by her. The two names doing the political circles are those of the Leader of the Opposition, Mahinda Rajapakse, and Anura Bandaranaike, Ms. Kumaratunga's brother.
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