The Parliamentary Group of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) met on September 23 2004 to consider the statements made by President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunge relating to "Peace Negotiations" in Sri Lanka during the course of her address to the 59th session of the United Nations General Assembly.
The President has stated that "the Government of Norway has been playing the role of facilitator for the negotiation process, for nearly six years. We have taken the process forward with the active participation of Norway, even though at present the LTTE is refusing to return to the negotiating table from which it withdrew nearly eighteen months ago."
Most regrettably, the above statement does not reflect the true factual position for the following reasons:
After several rounds of peace talks between the LTTE and the then UNF government, the LTTE in April 2003, for certain reasons, without withdrawing from the negotiation process, suspended its participation in peace talks. The LTTE however continued to be in contact with the facilitator, the Government of Norway and through the facilitator with the then UNF government.
In consequence thereof, the LTTE put forward proposals in writing for the setting up of an Interim Self Governing Authority (ISGA), on 31st October 2003. Simultaneously the LTTE requested that dates be fixed for the commencement of talks on this said proposals.
On 4 Novemer 2003, within four days of the LTTE's ISGA proposals, the President in the exercise of powers vested in her under the 1978 constitution took over from the UNF government which enjoyed a majority in Parliament, the Ministries of defense, Interior and Media, which were directly linked to the peace process, and assigned the said portfolios either to herself or to nominees from within her party.
This action of President resulted in the facilitator, the Norwegian Government suspending its role in November 2003, in view of the lack of clarity in regard to who was responsible for the peace process.
The ensuing stalemate resulted in the dismissal of the then UNF government, the dissolution of Parliament and the installation of a new Government after the General Elections held in April 2004.President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunge heads the new United Peoples Freedom Alliance Government which is an alliance between the Peoples Alliance (PA) and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP).
That the JVP campaigned and continues to campaign country wide against the peace process is well known. It has in fact, threatened to leave the Government and bring about the downfall of the Government, if the President commences talks on the ISGA proposals.
However, at the meeting the President had with the Parliamentary Group of the TNA on 10 June 2004, the President while expressing her reservations in regard to some of the ISGA proposals, unambiguously stated that she was prepared to commence talks on the ISGA proposals, without linking such talks to any other issue. The Government has hitherto not taken any action to implement this commitment.
It must not be forgotten that the initial reaction of the PA to the ISGA proposals was totally negative. The PA thereafter knowing very well the attitude of the JVP entered into an alliance with the JVP. This alliance resulted in the hardening of the position against the ISGA proposals and against the peace process. The President's inability to take the peace process forward is clearly attributable to this situation. The President's alliance partner within the Government, the JVP, has heightened its opposition to the ISGA proposals and the peace process. It is significant that the main opposition party, the United National Party (UNP) has urged the government to commence talks on the ISGA proposals and has publicly stated that it will sup! port any agreement that is arrived at between the government and the LTTE after such discussions.
The LTTE has repeatedly stated that it is eagerly awaiting the recommencement of the talks on the basis of the ISGA proposals, and that when the talks commence, any proposals that the Government may bring to the negotiating table in regard to the ISGA could also be discussed. This consistent position was once again conveyed to the special envoy of theNorwegian Government at a recent meeting.
In this background, the statement made by the President in the course of her address to the United Nations that "the LTTE is refusing to return to the negotiating table" is singularly unfortunate, as it does not reflect the true factual position. The lack of clarity, the contradictions within her own government, and her inability apart from making pronouncements to take definite action to commence talks are the main stumbling blocks to the recommencement of the peace process. It is pertinent to point out that in the context of the LTTE's request for dates to be fixed to commence talks when it submitted its ISGA proposals on 31 October 2003, the LTTE would have been at " the negotiating table" in November 2003 itself, but for the actions taken by the President on 4 November 2003.
The TNA also questions the President's statement that "comprehensive development strategy has been launched in the North and East of the country which are affected by the conflict".
While the TNA acknowledges that the international community has been providing some measure of humanitarian and development assistance to alleviate the deprivation and suffering of the Tamil civilian population in the North-East, hundreds of thousands of displaced Tamil people in the North-East yet continue to languish away from their homes, awaiting the implementation of a comprehensive programme of action that would resettle and rehabilitate them. This task, together with the task of reconstructing the devastated North-East can be accomplished only by a duly constituted Interim Self Governing Authority for the North-East.
We urge the President to refrain from rhetorical statements and focus on resolute action that would enable the recommencement of talks, and meaningful consensus-building that would ensure the success of the negotiations.
The Tamil people in the North-East more than anyone else yearn for a peaceful resolution of the conflict. The Tamil people strongly urge the President not to miss the opportunity that presently exists, to take the peace process forward by commencing talks with the LTTE on the ISGA proposals, in accordance with the assurance given to the parliamentary Group of the TNA on 10 June2004.
The TNA desires to point out that the President has used the forum of the United Nations General Assembly, attended by Heads of Governments to present a distorted picture of the current peace process. An enunciation of the steps that the President contemplates to take the peace process forward could have greatly contributed to building confidence. The TNA emphatically states that the present peace stalemate should not continue.
Mr.R.Sampanthan, parliamentary group leader of the TNA,
Mr.Selvam Adaikalanathan, President of the TELO,
Mr. Mavai Senathirajah, General Secretary of the Ilankai Thamil Arasu Katchchi,
Mr.Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam, General Secretary of the All Ceylon Tamil Congress
Mr.Suresh Premachchandran, Secretary General of the EPRLF (Suresh wing)
Posted September 30, 2004