complains of Norway’s pressure
By Our Diplomatic Correspondent
President Chandrika Kumaratunga on Friday
blamed the Norwegian facilitators in Sri Lanka's stalled peace process
for unduly pressuring her and not doing the same to the LTTE for
being "inflexible". She also declared her "willingness
to go forward" to break the stalemate to put an end to the
20-year northern insurgency.
a telephone conversation with outgoing US Deputy Secretary of State
Richard Armitage on Friday afternoon, President Kumaratunga complained
that the recent Norwegian peace delegation to Colombo had applied
pressure on her, while not doing the same to the rebels.
also said that she was prepared to discuss the LTTE's ISGA (self-rule)
proposal which the rebels demand as the "basis for resuming
told Mr. Armitage that she would discuss ISGA as a proposal of the
LTTE, but the LTTE needed to also discuss her government's proposals.
She avoided using the word 'counter-proposals' - a reference cabinet
spokesman Mangala Samaraweera used at a media briefing which was
soon pointed out to be procedurally wrong. While President Kumaratunga
was complaining about the Norwegian facilitators, her Information
Minister Samaraweera made a special statement in Parliament re-emphasising
the role of the Norwegians as facilitators and not as mediators
was made clear to the Norwegian Government, and accepted by that
Government, that its role was to be that of a facilitator and not
a mediator or arbitrator," the statement said explaining the
differences of each status.
facilitator has no judgmental role to play in the process of negotiations,"
the statement added raising curiosity in political circles to the
timing of the comments, and only a week after a high-powered Norwegian
delegation comprising Foreign Minister Jan Petersen and Deputy Foreign
Minister Vidar Helgessen visited the country to try and get the
stalled peace process between Colombo and the Wanni jump-started.
meeting between President Kumaratunga and the Norwegian delegation
on the night of Wednesday Nov. 10 had been "quite heated"
as one diplomat said, with the Sri Lankan side made to feel, at
times, that the Norwegians were pushing for the government to accept
the LTTE's won't-budge position of making ISGA the basis for resuming
Samaraweera statement was, however, pinned on the fact that the
government was merely responding to an adjournment time question
from JHU monks who called for the 'immediate withdrawal' of the
Norwegians as brokers in the peace process.
statement, while thanking the Norwegians for the role they had played
"overall" said that President Kumaratunga had also pulled
them up for the way they had handled some of the issues, and also
blamed the Norwegian-led Monitoring Mission (SLMM) for its handling
of some (security-related) issues.
Armitage, meanwhile, had told President Kumaratunga that the US
stood firm with the government and agreed with her that the LTTE
was being inflexible. Apologising for having to miss his recent
scheduled visit to Colombo owing to having to attend the funeral
of the founding father of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Zayed
Bin Sultan Al- Nahyan, Mr. Armitage pledged continuity in US foreign
policy on the peace process in Sri Lanka with a new team at the
State Department in Washington.
said that the new team would need to "re-think options"
to motivate the LTTE back into the negotiating table, and said that
US patience with the rebels was also "running out". Mr.
Armitage also welcomed the comments made by the President in her
recent television interview where she declared her willingnessto
break the deadlock in process.
after his call to President Kumaratunga, Mr. Armitage telephoned
Opposition UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe. He urged that the UNP
re-consider its boycott of the Peace and Reconciliation Advisory
Council and engage itself fully in the peace process.
Wickremesinghe had told the US Deputy Secretary of State that his
party fully supported President Kumaratunga's endeavours to find
a political solution with the LTTE, but urged in return that the
President obtain the support of her own coalition partners (especially
the JVP) to support her peace moves.
Armitage had not specifically referred to the JVP's position on
the peace process or whether she spoke for them when she said she
was willing to discuss ISGA.
of the JVP's key player's, Propaganda Chief Wimal Weerawansa, MP
was recently on a tour of Western countries drumming up support,
and funds, from expatriate Sri Lankans to oppose the ISGA proposal
of the LTTE.
the US State Department issued a statement from Washington soon
after Mr. Armitage's telephone call to Sri Lanka's President and
Opposition Leader urging the LTTE to "abandon terrorism in
word and deed and return to the peace table".
Kumaratunga has been consistent and forthright in her commitment
to settling outstanding issues in the peace process in the framework
of a united Sri Lanka," the statement said, adding that Mr.
Armitage praised the work of Norway to facilitate these talks.
statement made no reference to the contents of his discussion with
the UNP Leader. It, however, blamed the LTTE for the recent "terrorist
actions" that "fly in the face of efforts of all other
Sri Lankans and the international community to bring peace to this
war-torn country - the murder yesterday (Thursday) of an army officer,
clearly carried out by the LTTE is only the most recent assault
on the peace process".
Armitage had, in the meantime, received information of the assassination
of High Court Judge Sarath Ambepitiya in Colombo, the judge who
had sentenced LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran to 200 years imprisonment
for complicity in the Central Bank bombing in January 1996, and
checked the facts with US Ambassador Jeffrey Lunstead, who had briefed
him that the murder may have been the work of the drug mafia and
not the LTTE.