B. Muralidhar Reddy

The count is not expected to stop here

COLOMBO: Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse on Friday inducted a fifth rebel member of the main Opposition, United National Party (UNP) into the Government. W.B. Ekanayake is the new entrant into the 90-member strong Council of Ministers in a House of 225 members.

The count of Ministers in the United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) Government is not expected to stop here. As leader of a bare majority Government, Mr. Rajapakse has extended open invitation to all four other partners of the UPFA to become part of the Government.

Smaller parties such as the Ceylon Workers' Congress (CWC) too have been invited to join the Government. The CWC has accepted the invitation in "principle" and is waiting for Mr. Rajapakse to indicate the ministerial portfolio for its nominee.

Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) headed by Mr. Rajapakse leads the UPFA. Barring two MPs, all members of the party are Ministers. The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), with 22 members in Parliament, is the key component of the UPFA.

Mr. Rajapakse has asked the JVP to join the Government.

8 Tigers killed

At least eight cadres of the Tamil Tigers were killed and four injured on Saturday in an alleged air raid by the Air Force on the LTTE Thenaham Conference Centre in Karadiyanaru, 24 km northwest of Batticaloa.

Meanwhile, Denmark served a notice to quit the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM), following Finland, after efforts to persuade the LTTE to let the European Union members continue to be part of the mission.

Observers believe that the continuing air raids, reportedly to end the blockade of a water source imposed by the Tamil Tigers, and the disquieting developments related to SLMM have raised the already surcharged temperature.

The Government chose not to react directly to the decision of Finland and Denmark. "Without reference to the current developments we believe at a juncture when the world is fighting terrorism, such actions would create a wrong precedent," chief Defence Spokesperson of the Government, Keheliya Rambukwella told The Hindu ..