Peace Secretariat says
Interim body not the ISGA
By Frances Bulathsinghala
A single sentence in a Government statement - to re-open direct negotiations with Tiger guerillas on an interim authority and proceed to negotiate a final settlement of the ethnic conflict - drew an angry warning from the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP).

The Government's junior partner said it would quit the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) if the pledge made in the statement was carried out. The Sunday Times learnt the statement issued by the Information Department originated from the Peace Secretariat. Its Secretary General Jayantha Dhanapala was not available for comment.

His deputy John Gooneratne answered questions put to him about the official statements that has generated the political controversy.

Has there been a policy shift in the government's position with regard to the LTTE's ISGA and was this reflected in any statements last week?
No, the position is very much the same. There is no such policy shift.

Could you explain the phraseology in the government release issued on 23 February which states that the government was ready to re-open direct negotiations with the LTTE on the establishment of an interim authority ?

The release does not mention an Interim Self Governing Authority. What is mentioned in the release circulated by the Government Information Department is a re-iteration of the same position that the government had always held. The phrase an interim authority has been mentioned by the government before. The ISGA is the LTTE version of what would be an interim authority.

Could you explain the sentence in the government statement that the government would 'proceed thereafter to negotiating a final settlement ?
It is clear enough. The government was always keen on a permanent settlement. There is no reference to the ISGA.

Could you explain the difference between the LTTE term Interim Self Governing Authority and Interim Authority as meant by the government ?
It is difficult to do so at this point. The government has used the term interim authority before in its attempted alternate proposals to the LTTE's ISGA, the agenda of which was not finalised. The term interim authority is used by the government because it is a general term.

Has any document been sent to the LTTE by the government as an alternative to the ISGA ?
To my recollection, no.

Has there been any LTTE reaction received by the Government Peace Secretariat after the release of the government statement ?

Why has there not been a response from the Peace Secretariat regarding the statement which the JVP considered as serious as leaving the government for ?
No response is needed. Various people are interpreting the issue their own way. As far as we are concerned this is not an issue worth releasing a statement. There are various people who get this term mixed up with the ISGA.

Could you explain the present position with regard to the government setting up a mechanism to work with the LTTE towards humanitarian issues concerning the tsunami aftermath ?
Issues relating to this are being finalised and the government will go ahead with the plan.

Has there been any notable outcome with regard to the peace process following the visit of the Norwegian peace facilitator Erik Solheim?
We would be able to comment only when the visit is concluded by Mr. Solheim.

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