Sri Lanka opposition leader to step down

March 18th, 2009 - 7:22 pm ICT by IANS  

Colombo, March 18 (DPA) Sri Lanka’s opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, who signed a Norwegian-backed peace deal with Tamil Tiger rebels as the country’s prime minister in 2002, is under pressure from his own party to step down, media reports said Wednesday.
A section of lawmakers from the opposition United National Party (UNP) has urged Wickremesinghe to step down. Senior party members are to meet Wednesday night for discussions on the issue.

The calls for Wickremesinghe to step down because of his “unpopularity” come amidst successive military victories for the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which helped to boost Rajapaksa’s ratings.

Wickremesinghe, who turns 60 on March 24, shot to the limelight in 1993 when he was named premier after then-president Ranasinghe Premadasa was killed by a Tamil suicide bomber, and then-premier D.B. Wijetunga took over the presidency.

He came under the party’s internal criticism as he has lost 18 local and national elections since 1994, but was prime minister a second time from late 2001 to early 2004.

Nearly half of the 80 UNP lawmakers have crossed over to Rajapaksa’s government since the 2004 elections, some of them holding important portfolios.

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