The move came minutes after her rival Prime Minister Rani Wickremesinghe returned to the country after his US visit.

 

Government chief printer Neville Nanayakkara in Colombo said the president had ordered him not to release the gazetted notification imposing the emergency. "There is no state of emergency," Nanayakkara told AFP.

 

Earlier, on his return, Wickremesinghe vowed to reopen parliament which had been suspended by Kumaratunga until 19 November.

 

"I will see that parliament is re-summoned immediately to continue the peace process," he said.  The president’s actions have placed the peace process in jeopardy, Wickremesinghe said.

 

Focal point

 

During the time he was in the US, Kumaratunga sacked three ministers and suspended parliament. A day later she declared a state of emergency and a take-over of the state-run media.

 

Kumaratunga withdrew emergency
in a dramatic turnaround

"Parliament is the focal point of the peace process and with the parliament closed we cannot take the peace process forward," he said, referring to peace talks with Tamil Tiger guerrillas.

  

At the airport, Wickremesinghe received a big welcome from his supporters and cabinet colleagues.

 

"Father of peace, we are with you," read a poster at Bandaranaike International Airport where about 7000 of Wickremesinghe's supporters gathered as his motorcade prepared for the 30km trip into Colombo under army and police guard.

  

Buddhist monks and Hindu priests invoked blessings for Wickremesinghe, chanting religious hymns. The prime minister appeared relaxed.

 

Meetings

  

As the Qatar Airways plane landed, Tilak Marapone, the former defence minister whose firing by Kumaratunga on Tuesday started the crisis, went inside the aircraft to escort Wickremesinghe out.

 

"I will see that parliament is re-summoned immediately to continue the peace process"

Ranil Wickremesinghe,
Prime Minister, Sri Lanka

In the capital and at the outskirts, Wickremesinghe supporters assembled with his United National Party's green flags, along with posters and cut-outs of the prime minister. Soldiers kept watch with rifles at the city limit.

  

"We are with the prime minister who has brought peace to our country," read a poster in Sinhala, the language of the Sinhalese majority.

  

Once in Colombo, Wickremesinghe was to meet with ministers and opposition supporters. He also was expected to seek a crucial face-to-face meeting with Kumaratunga, although it was not clear when it would take place, officials at Wickremesingh's office said.

  

At the centre of the standoff are the Tamil Tigers, a separatist rebel group that is in control of north and north-east of the country.  Kumaratunga says rebel proposals to broaden their autonomy are unacceptable and accuses Wickremesinghe of being soft on them.