Sympathy vote sees president re-elected

RIDING A wave of sympathy and anger among the majority Sinhalese, Sri Lanka's President, Chandrika Kumaratunga, won a second and final six-year term yesterday. She immediately promised to pursue peace with Tamil separatists in the north-east.

Mrs Kumaratunga surviveda suicide bomb attack at a campaign rally on Saturday, suffering injuries to her face.

Her opponents said she had fulfilled none of her promises in 1994, except putting the clocks forward half an hour. Above all, they say, she has failed to bring peace. Now a military assault on the separatist Tamil Tigers is floundering.

But, in a powerful speech, Mrs Kumaratunga rededicated herself to ending the civil war that has raged since 1983. Still emotional after the deaths of 24 people in Saturday's blast, she broke down and wept. Her survival and poll victory was a "national miracle" that should be "the beginning of a new destiny for our country. Our vow and our destiny are that peace must reign," she said.

But peace, she made plain, was not surrender. Five years ago Mrs Kumaratunga sat down to talk to the Tamil Tigers, but yesterday she denounced the organisation. "Let all citizens of this country be warned that the government will not be deterred from taking the strongest possible action against any anyone who supports terror."

She appealed to her beaten presidential rival, Ranil Wickremesinghe, to join her government. Mrs Kumaratunga won 52 per cent voter support in a 75 per cent turn-out, but she won none of the five Tamil majority districts and was trounced in four of them.