The government is in a dilemma over the outright rejection of its proposal to establish a National Advisory Council on Peace and Reconciliation to facilitate the stalled peace process.
President Chandrika Kumaratunga planned to inaugurate the Council on Monday (4) with the participation of all political parties represented in parliament. Political sources said the decision of the UNP and the TNA to boycott the Council had placed the government in an uncomfortable position. "Without their presence, the whole exercise is worthless. In fact it would not be possible to set up the Council without their participation," government sources acknowledged.
The President recently requested the UNP to name six persons to the proposed Council. The sources said the government expected the UNP to nominate senior partymen, preferably members of its negotiating team that held six rounds of talks with the LTTE. The sources said the SLMC and the Up-country Peoples Front are also under pressure to shun the council.
The UNP and the TNA accused the government of wasting time by engaging in a worthless exercise. UNP Deputy General Secretary (Kandy District MP) Tissa Attanayake claimed the President was ‘playing for time.’ Outspoken TNA MP Nadarajah Raviraj (Jaffna District) endorsed Attanayake’s view. Raviraj said the UNP and the TNA had expressly endorsed the LTTE’s stand that talks should begin on the basis of the LTTE’s ISGA proposals.
Replying to questions, Raviraj said, "Our parliamentary group unanimously decided to boycott this. We will not change our stand."
Political sources said the proposal to set up a National Advisory Council on Peace and Reconciliation was nothing new. The President inaugurated what was termed the National Consultation on Ethnic Reconciliation on July 26 two years ago
The UNP boycotted the July function. But the TNA leader R. Sampanthan attended it.
Raviraj said that they would not be deceived by the President’s move. "We don’t need another committee to lead the peace process. Negotiations can resume immediately after the government responds positively to the LTTE’s proposals," he said. He stressed that there would not be a change in the status quo as long as the government did not accept the ISGA proposals as the basis for negotiations. The talks broke down in April 2003.
Raviraj expressed the belief the government would call off what he termed an idiotic exercise that wouldn’t have any impact on the ongoing efforts to revive the peace process. He emphasised that the LTTE wouldn’t accept anything short of an interim self governing authority.The Deshahitheshi Jathika Viyaparaya (Patriotic National Front) on Monday warned President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s government that it would be toppled if it heeded the LTTE’s demand to set up an LTTE-run interim administration in the North-East region