COLOMBO, Sept 15. Reuter: The Sri Lankan Government on Thursday invoked emergency powers to ensure that essential services still function after Marxist rebels called for two days of protests to mark President Junius Jayewardene’s birthday on Saturday.

The Government ordered all shops, transport services, power supplies and hospitals to function without interruption.

“Anybody who fails to comply with these regulations … will be severely punished under emergency laws,” the statement said.

The Marxist People’s Liberation front has called for two days of what it calls “mourning” on Friday and Saturday.

The Government statement, without mentioning the front, said “gangs of fascists have been engaged in creating a situation which will promote a campaign of mass violence resulting in hardship and misery to the people.”

Jayewardene, 83 on Saturday, is expected to announce he will step down when his current term ends in February, authoritative sources said,

They said the ruling united national party would nominate Prime. Minister Ranasinghe Premadasa to stand as President in elections expected in December.

The main challenger will be former Prime Minister Sirima Bandaranaike, nominated by the main. Opposition freedom party.

Indian troops in northern and eastern Sri Lanka meanwhile announced they had begun a unilateral five day ceasefire in their battle against Tamil Separatist guerrillas.

Article extracted from this publication >> September 23, 1988