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CBK in crucial talks with potential rebels
By Harinda Vidanage
President Chandrika Kumaratunga is to personally talk to every PA MP in an apparent bid to prevent the government from getting a two-thirds majority for the 19th Amendment.

Her move came amidst growing indication that upto 20 PA MPs might support the constitutional amendment to clip the President's power to dissolve parliament. The highly-charged amendment was gazetted on Wednesday night and is to be presented in parliament on Tuesday with government sources indicating it would be taken up in parliament early next month.

Besides claims from government leaders, the former Leader of the House and senior PA minister Richard Pathirana is coming out openly in favour of the amendment. Mr. Pathirana told The Sunday Times he would defy the party and vote for the amendment. He said he was confident that at least 20 PA MPs would join him in giving a two-thirds majority for the motion.

The Sunday Times learns that during the last PA parliamentary group meeting, the President had openly blamed some MPs who she suspects would vote with the government. These include Richard Pathirana, A.H.M. Fowzie, M.K.D.S. Gunawardena, Sarana Gunawardena and Jeyaraj Fernandopulle.

While Mr. Pathirana is outspoken, Mr. Fowzie was more discreet and told The Sunday Times he was still undecided though he felt the President also was undecided. But SLFP sources said the party's central committee would meet tomorrow to decide on action against Mr. Pathirana and Mr. Fowzie.

Besides PA support, UNF leaders are also known to be canvassing votes from other parties, like Ferial Ashraff's NUA, the EPDP and the PLOTE which together have six seats.

But PA sources alleged that the government was trying to force PA members to vote for the bill using highly unethical methods such as pulling up court cases or instigating police investigations into past affairs like in the Rubber deal investigation on the former Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake and bringing allegations against PA MP Chandana Kathriarachchi.

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