Thursday, Apr 24, 2003
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By V.S. Sambandan
The Sudar Oli newspaper quoted him as saying that there was no need to fear a return to war. "The soft approach in the negotiations has ended. That is all. We want the people to understand this. The LTTE has asked its political cadres to explain the latest situation to the people." "We only want solutions for problems faced by civilians. We are not demanding Army withdrawal." The Government too does not view the latest situation as a breakdown of the peace process. "We don't see this as a major setback. It is a warning bell," Bradman Weerakoon, a senior Prime Ministerial aide, told The Hindu. Mr. Weerakoon, who was closely involved in previous attempts to clinch peace through talks, felt the negotiations were headed for a harder phase. The massive reconstruction work, he said, was hampered by procedural and other difficulties, but was confident that they could be sorted out.
Opposition demands debate
The overall feeling here is that there would be no return to war. Opposition parties have demanded a Parliament session "as soon as possible" to debate the latest crisis. "We would like to see the talks go on", the Opposition Leader, Mahinda Rajapakse, told a press conference.
Blaming both the Ranil Wickremesinghe administration and the Tigers for the crisis, Mr. Rajapakse said the LTTE "must take a larger part of the blame'' as it "walked away" and was "not acting responsibly".
The Left-radical Janata Vimukthi Peramuna, advocate of a hardline approach to the ethnic conflict, also endorsed the view that talks should resume. "We are not really for war, but we are worried about the developing situation," the party said. The leader of the Communist Party, Raja Collure, blamed last year's ceasefire agreement for the present difficulties and wanted Norway "to restrict itself" to its role as facilitator.
The Opposition was quiet on how the Government should go about the present impasse and maintained that it was for the negotiators to sort out the problem.
This is the third honeymoon to end between the Tigers and Colombo. After the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord, a 14-month honeymoon was on between April 1989 and June 1990. The Tigers made common cause with the then President, R. Premadasa, to demand the withdrawal of the Indian Peacekeeping Force (IPKF), deployed on the request of the J.R. Jeyawardene Presidency. Fighting resumed after the IPKF left the island.
The second honeymoon, between the LTTE and the Chandrika Kumaratunga administration, lasted 100 days between October 1994 and April 1995. Last February, Colombo and the Tigers signed a ceasefire agreement and held six rounds of talks till now.
India earlier made two futile attempts the Timphu talks and the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord to help find a negotiated settlement.
Since the commencement of the conflict, the Provincial Councils system, created after the Indo-Lanka Accord, is the only constitutional progress made. The LTTE rejected this as "inadequate" and ironically, the elected Councils function all over the island, except the Tamil-majority north and east, for which they were originally intended.
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