Interim Self-Governing Authority (ISGA) proposal is a blue
print for a future separate State and it will be difficult for a
sovereign government to accept the proposal, said Sri Lanka's
Foreign Minister, Lakshman Kadirgamar, during a talk he gave at
the Brookings Institute in Washington D.C Wednesday afternoon.
Mr.Kadirgamar is on an official visit to the United States where
he met with U.S Secretary of State, Colin Powell and other U.S
On peace negotiations, Mr.Kadirgamar said, "the talks broke
down in April 2003 when LTTE walked out after six sessions of
talks in different parts of the world. An LTTE leader said the
talks were a waste of time as people in NorthEast have not
received any tangible benefit from the peace process.
"If relief and development do not reach the people then it
will be difficult for any ruling party to maintain support from
"We will work to get international help in rebuilding
NorthEast, a region devastated by two decades of war.
"The LTTE has put forward a proposal for an Interim
Administration as a vehicle for rehabilitation and
reconstruction of NorthEast.
"However, the Interim Self-Governing Authority (ISGA)
proposal, on the face of it, will be very difficult for a
sovereign government to accept. It has no reference to a
Parliament, claims a separate Auditor General, and demands 200
mile maritime zone along two thirds of Sri Lanka's coast. It is
a blue print for a future separate state," the Minister said.
He added, "Discussions will take place and arduous
negotiations will happen. Compromises have to be made."
On the question of timing of the peace talks, Mr. Kadirgamar
said: "Starting date of the peace talks is not important. As
long as engagement is maintained there will be progress. The
time for shadow boxing is over. We can no longer skirt around
On Norwegian facilitation, Mr.Kadirgamar said, "We have
encouraged the Norwegians to take a lower profile than they took
during the term of the previous government. When people become
suspicious and if this creates resentment, these are legitimate
reactions in a democracy we have to deal with. Also I think, the
Internationalization of Sri Lanka's process has gone too far."
The Foreign Minister answered questions from the audience at
the end of his talk. Excerpts follow:
Question: Do you think there will be a solution to the
ethnic conflict in our life time?
FM: Yes. Separate State is a solution, but not a
satisfactory one. Any arrangement less than that is very
welcome. 2 years, 3 years, 5 years...I can't give a firm answer.
Question: Minister, in your previous term you lobbied
foreign governments heavily to proscribe the LTTE. The LTTE
doesn't view your stand in the conflict favourably. Infact, your
involvement may become an impediment to the peace process. How
do you see your participation developing?
FM: I did my duty at that time. I was only reflecting
my peoples view. I know LTTE wants to see me dead. I am at the
top of their hit list...If I am an impediment to peace I will
step down. I may not sit face to face across the table. I think
the LTTE still would like to keep in touch with me.
Question: You have said recently that you accept LTTE
as the sole representative of the Tamils. How can you reconcile
this in a democratic system where LTTE was never elected by its
FM: There has been much controversy in the press about
the statement I made in India. My stand is that LTTE by
implication is the sole representative of the Tamil people, at
the negotiating table. This is the same position Prime Minister
Premadasa, President Kumaratunge [in her earlier term] and
former Prime Minister Wickremesinghe took. This is also the de
facto situation that we have to accept. But we will include the
whole community outside the negotiating table to ensure that
everyone understands the issues and the progress of the
Question: There has been a lot of criticism against
India recently. Can you explain why?
FM: There is no question that any solution is possible
in Sri Lanka without India's tacit support. Do not get agitated
by what you read in the Press. The Press supports the Opposition
or the Government only when its policy coincides with theirs.
Ultimately it is the owners who control the press.
Mr.Kadirgamar also talked at length on the virtues of
democracy. He said that voting is ingrained in Sri Lankans as
they have been exercising theiir voting rights from the 1930s.
He was pleased with the relatively violence free elections and
pointed out the challenges facing the new parliamentarian monks.
Tamil National Alliance (TNA), Mr.Kadirgamar said, is a party
with a single issue, that of fighting for a solution based on
the right to self-determination. As a party wielding
considerable power with 22-members in a 225 member assembly, the
Foreign Minister said TNA will face hard choices when called
upon to vote on a whole range of issues.