LTTE rejects ISGC, insists on ISGA
By Chris Kamalendran
The LTTE has rejected a UPFA government offer of an Interim Self Governing Council (ISGC) instead of an Interim Self Governing Authority (ISGA). The offer, made by the government in a desperate bid to resume the peace process, was conveyed during talks Norwegian Deputy Foreign Minister Vidar Helgesen had in Kilinochchi last Monday with LTTE Political Wing leader S.P. Thamilselvan.

Before Mr. Helgesen left for Kilinochchi, Peace Secretariat Chief Jayantha Dhanapala is learnt to have verbally conveyed the offer of an ISGC. The Sunday Times learns that the outlines of an ISGC are now being formulated by government officials as a formal document. It is said to be within the contours of a united Sri Lanka.

However, the LTTE has insisted it would not settle for anything less than an ISGA. The LTTE's position was reiterated this week by its mouthpiece in Parliament, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA). They told the visiting US official Donald Camp, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs, on Friday that the LTTE wanted a written undertaking that the government would give priority to the ISGA at any new talks.

The TNA delegation said the government's position should be given in writing as different parties or factions were making different statements on the position regarding the ISGA.

TNA Paliamentarian Joseph Pararajasingham told The Sunday Times his party also believed that the government's position should be given in writing. He pointed out that during a meeting in May, President Chandrika Kumaratunga had told the TNA she was agreeable for the ISGA to be taken up first but two days later she had called for parallel talks on the ISGA and the final political solution.

The government's proposal for an ISGC instead of an ISGA comes in the wake of a public campaign against the ISGA by the National Patriotic Movement (NPM), in which the JVP is a strong voice.

An official statement issued by the Presidential Secretariat following the visit of the Norwegian Deputy Foreign Minister early this week said the President indicated to Mr. Helgesen that her Government was willing and keen to start negotiations on 'an interim authority within the framework of a united Sri Lanka' and to reach a durable solution to the conflict.

While spokesman Mangala Samaraweera declared the government was ready for talks on the ISGA, JVP frontliners have warned the party might be forced to pull out of the UPFA if the President agreed to the LTTE's demand for the talks to be focused on the ISGA.

Mr. Helgesen told a news conference there was little or no progress in the peace process and he was surprised at the complacency of the public who should be helping to push forward the peace process. Mr. Helgesen on Friday met LTTE theoretician Anton Balasingham in London in a further bid to break the deadlock.

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