Meeting lends ‘fresh cause for optimism’ - paper

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 31 July 2002, 15:06 GMT]
In the wake of the landmark meeting Saturday between Sri Lankan cabinet Minister Milinda Moragoda and the Liberation Tigers’ chief negotiator, Anton Balasingham, prospects of a meeting later this year between Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and LTTE leader Vellupillai Pirapaharan have been raised, a Tamil expatriate newspaper reported this week.

The London-based Tamil Guardian reported Wednesday that when asked about the possibility of the two leaders meeting, Mr. Balasingham had said that whilst no request had been made to the LTTE by the Sri Lankan government, “it would certainly be favourably considered.”

Mr. Balasingham also told Tamil Guardian that he expected to meet with Mr. Pirapaharan in September to discuss matters related to the peace efforts. “The details [of the visit] have not been finalised, but I expect to discuss our strategies with Mr. Pirapaharan at about that time,” he said.

Asked by Tamil Guardian about the meeting last week between Mr. Wickremesinghe and US President George Bush, Mr. Balasingham welcomed the US expressions of support for the Sri Lankan Premier and the Norwegian peace effort.

“In urging Sri Lanka to peacefully negotiate a solution to the ethnic question with the LTTE, [the US] is also recognising us as the political entity representing Tamil interests,” Mr. Balasingham said, pointing out that this also reflected the sentiments of the majority of Tamil-speaking peoples in Sri Lanka.

But Mr. Bush’s expression of support for Mr. Wickremesinghe was mocked by a top advisor to the Premier’s arch rival, President Chandrika Kumaratunga, the Daily Mirror reported.

“He (Mr. Bush) flattened Afghanistan in search of Osama, but couldn't catch him. Such a man is trying to stand behind Ranil,” former Speaker Anura Bandaranaike - who is also the President’s brother - said.

Asked by the Tamil Guardian about the political scene in Colombo, Mr. Balasingham said the LTTE was observing developments closely, noting that “given Kumaratunga’s opposition to a negotiated solution with the LTTE, the stability of the [Wickremesinghe] government has a direct bearing on the Norwegian peace initiative.”

President Kumaratunga, in a acrimonious letter to Wickremesinghe last week, asserted she has the power to sack cabinet ministers and rejected the Premier's contention that she cannot do so without consulting him.

In its editorial this week, the Tamil Guardian, which is published in Britain, Canada and Australia, hailed the meeting between Mr. Moragoda and Mr. Balasingham as “tangible proof of fresh progress towards peace.”

“That these talks covered thorny subjects - implementation of the ceasefire agreement, agenda for future talks in Thailand and the question of an interim administration - and yet left both sides pleased with the results gives the greatest cause for optimism,” the paper said.

But arguing that “the serious contradiction at the heart of the Sinhala establishment poses an immediate threat to the Norwegian peace initiative” the Tamil Guardian warned that “the odds of the Parliamentary government being able to survive the duration of a meaningful peace process look considerably weaker.”

“[It] is now quite clear, the risk [Kumaratunga] poses to the Norwegian initiative cannot be removed by repeatedly placating the President in the name of southern consensus but by ensuring that she is manifestly unable to veto its progress,” the Tamil Guardian said.


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