Peace process
CBK wants bigger role
The SLFP led by President Chandrika Kumaratunga has made known its formal approach to the peace negotiations between the government and the LTTE, calling for a bigger role for the President in it and saying it supports the process, but not if it leads to the division of the country.

In a carefully worded 12-page statement signed by party secretary Maithripala Sirisena, the SLFP hit out at the ruling United National Front for sabotaging peace moves when the PA government was in office. "We will not indulge in similar destructive policies," the SLFP said proposing that the rebel LTTE be persuaded to enter the talks on "core issues" in order that a "lasting solution" be reached.
The party has called for a greater role for President Kumaratunga to play in the Norwegian-brokered peace process which is handled almost exclusively by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Calling for a standing committee under the joint leadership of President Kumaratunga and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe " to guide the peace process", the SLFP said it was opposing talks on the formation of an interim administration before a final settlement was reached.

Former Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, the party's nominee to liaise with the government and the Norwegians, told The Sunday Times that the involvement in the peace process should be as broadbased as possible because it is commonly acknowledged that unless at least the major political parties find common ground in their negotiating stance with the LTTE, it is not likely that there could be a durable solution.

He said that in fact this was what the UNF government and the LTTE said "and therefore, the SLFP hopes to make it clear it takes the same position, and for that position to be reached, there should be some mechanism for bi-partisan discussion".
The opposition statement asked that the ruling UNF recognise the "pivotal role of the President in the peace process as Head of State, Head of the Executive and the Government, Head of the Cabinet, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and leader of the SLFP and the PA", most of which roles Prime Minister's UNF was de facto managing.

On the immediate question of de-banning the LTTE, one of the rebel pre-conditions for talks, the SLFP said their stance was one that was "practical and functional", and asked that the ban be lifted only after talks begin.

The party fell short of insisting on the ban being maintained, indicating it was the party's preferred option, only pointing out that the LTTE had in the past declared its readiness to talk while seizing the opportunity to do otherwise.

It cautioned the Prime Minister against adopting what it called a "lax approach" without safeguards towards the LTTE call for an interim administration in the north and east saying this "could lead to the creation of a de facto separate state".
The SLFP said it was opposed to the LTTE designs to run a one-party administration in the north and east and urged more democracy in the region.

In what was apparently a watered down version from an original draft slamming Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, the official policy statement of the SLFP criticised him for signing the ceasefire agreement with the LTTE without proper consultation either with President Kumaratunga or others, and went on to make comments about LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran's April 10 press conference.

The statement said the rebel leader had yet to abandon his goal of a separate state in the country's north and east, and his concept of a minority Tamil homeland indicating he had not changed his own position towards the 20 year civil war he had unleashed costing some 60,000 lives.

In its concluding paragraph, the SLFP which has 79 seats in the 225-seat Parliament together with its coalition partners, said it was committed to a plural society and "is ready to make any sacrifice to achieve peace in Sri Lanka if the present peace process would ensure the territorial integrity and sovereignty of a united Sri Lanka".
Political observers here were quick to note the reference to the words " a united Sri Lanka", which is taken to mean that the party formed by President Kumaratunga's late father S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike largely on a pro-majority Sinhalese nationalist line were prepared to opt out of the "unitary state" status of the country, possibly into a federal structure that could grant self-rule to the LTTE.

The SLFP statement which was approved by President Kumaratunga who is currently huddled in Nuwara-Eliya in the central highlands holding a two-day seminar with party leaders, has written a separate letter to Buddhist chief monks that they could be assured of her support as head of state to ensure the sovereignty of the island was intact.

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