UNP leader walks out of talks with govt.

[TamilNet, Saturday, 22 July 2000, 10:37 GMT]
The leader of the Sri Lanka's main opposition party Mr.Ranil Wickremesinghe walked out of talks between his party and the government on constitutional changes aimed at resolving the island's ethnic conflict Friday evening in protest against allegations in the state media that he has links with the Liberation Tigers. Mr.Wickremesinghe told the government delegation led by President Chandrika Kumaratunga Bandaranaike that he will not take part in talks on the proposed constitutional changes until his name is cleared by the authorities, according to a spokesman of the United National Party.

The leader of the United National Party pointed out to the Sri Lankan President last evening at the commencement of the discussions that the state run media is carrying on a malicious campaign against him by claiming that he had clandestinely met LTTE leaders for talks in Singapore and that any meaningful discussion on resolving the conflict cannot take place when such accusations are being cast on him.

Having made this statement the UNP leader had walked out of the talks last evening. He had, however, assured the government that other members of his party would continue to take part in the talks.

But political analysts in Colombo said that talks between the government and the UNP on working out a constitutional reform package for resolving the ethnic conflict is good as dead now. This is why the government has hurriedly announced today that it will place the reform proposals in Parliament in the first week of August they said.

The state run media has been putting out stories recently that the UNP has had secret negotiations with the Liberation Tigers. "The campaign is aimed at impressing upon the Sinhala masses that the UNP is betraying them by negotiating with the LTTE" said a party spokesman.

The government believes that the concerted campaign it carried on against the UNP during the Presidential elections in November-December last year, accusing it of conspiring to hand over the north and east to the Liberation Tigers, was successful in turning the Sinhala and Muslim votes away from that party.

This is why the state media has begun orchestrating the campaign again political analysts say.

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