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Aftermath > Chandrika advised against rushing into talks due to
domestic political compulsions
Chandrika advised against rushing into talks
due to domestic political compulsions
Sri Lanka Sunday Leader, 16 May 2004
The diplomatic community has cautioned the government against rushing into talks due to domestic political compulsions without first evolving a proper strategy and agenda on the process.
Several members of the co chair have advised the government to go slow on the process without rushing in for talks.
Meanwhile the government appointed foremost diplomat, Jayantha Dhanapala as the head of the Peace Secretariat and assume duties in June. He succeeds Ambassador Bernard Goonetilleke
Ambassador Dhanapala who served as an under secretary in the Untied Nations is highly respected both locally and internationally and was one time tipped by the New York Times in an editorial as a suitable choice for the UN Secretary General's post.
Dhanapala will function directly under the authority of President Chandrika Kumaratunga and be in the team of government negotiators when talks resume with the LTTE. Dhanapala will serve in an honourary capacity.
Former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in 2002 also invited Dhanapala to head the Peace Secretariat, but the diplomat serving in the UN at the time declined the offer stating he had a commitment to Secretary General Kofi Annan.
The government team of negotiators is expected to be headed by Finance Minister Sarath Amunugama, widely regarded as a moderate on the ethnic issue.
The Sunday Leader learns that after intense shuttle diplomacy between Colombo and Wanni by the Norwegians, President Kumaratunga has agreed to resume negotiations with the LTTE on the basis of the interim administration proposals recognising the LTTE as the sole representative of the Tamils.
The President who wanted the core issues also to be discussed parallel to the ISGA proposals has now agreed to put it in the back burner following the rejection of the proposals by the LTTE.
The LTTE also rejected a call by the President to conduct the talks in Sri Lanka and insisted it be held in Europe, to which too Kumaratunga has now agreed.
The Sunday Leader learns, the President has further agreed to honour the ceasefire agreement in letter and spirit and work towards the implementation of its provisions including the issue of resettlement in the High Security Zones.
The Sunday Leader further learns, the President had agreed not to involve Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar directly in the talks following reservations expressed by the LTTE.
The LTTE had pointed out that Kadirgamar had pre judged the ISGA proposal by rejecting it out of hand as paving the way for a separate state.
Speaking at the Brookings Institute in Washington last week, Kadirgamar reiterated his position stating the LTTE's ISGA proposal was a blueprint for a future separate state and it would be difficult for a sovereign government to accept the proposal.
Meanwhile, diplomatic sources said the entry of Dhanapala to the peace process will give it the much needed credibility which was lacking under the UPFA.
Dhanapala retired from the foreign service prematurely while ambassador in Washington in bitter disappointment following a serious disagreement with Kadirgamar.
The UNF last week described the current process as a sham and said it would not be able to support it unless there was a genuine commitment on the part of the government.
"We are not going to support the sham of the UPFA. It is using the peace process as a ruse to make up a parliamentary majority and to obtain much needed funds from donor countries," UNP spokesman and former chief negotiator, G. L. Peiris said last week.
The UNF also cautioned the Norwegians to tread carefully by not working to the domestic political compulsions of the UPFA, but on the basis of the government's genuine commitment to the peace process.