Former Sri Lankan President dies

September 21, 2008 (AFP) – Former Sri Lankan President Dingiri Banda Wijetunga, died on Sunday after a prolonged illness, his aide said. He was 86.

Wijetunga, who was Sri Lanka’s third executive president, died of a chest ailment at a hospital in the central hillside town of Kandy, his aide Sarath Muniratne told reporters.

A member of the United National Party (UNP) — now the main opposition party — Wijetunga was appointed president in May 1993, after a Tamil Tiger suicide bomber assassinated his predecessor Ranasinghe Premadasa during a political rally. He remained president until November 1994.

Elected to the parliament in 1965, Wijetunga held several key portfolios, including defence and finance and served as prime minister from 1989 to 1993.

Wijetunga is survived by his daughter. Muniratne said Wijetunga’s body will be taken to parliament on Thursday and cremated in Kandy on the same day.