Sri Lanka 's president says resumption of peace talks is ``top priority''
Sat April 17, 2004 02:12 EDT .
- - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) A resumption of peace talks with Tamil Tiger rebels is the ``top priority'' of President Chandrika Kumaratunga's new administration, despite claims by a pro-rebel party that the hardline president is neglecting the peace process, her spokesman said Saturday. The Tamil National Alliance, the rebels' proxy political party, won 22 seats in Sri Lanka - 's 225-seat Parliament in April 2 elections, becoming the third-largest party. It accused Kumaratunga on Friday of not making serious efforts to restart the peace process.
``The president has failed to take any meaningful step to resume peace talks,'' the TNA said in a statement.
Kumaratunga's political alliance was the biggest winner in the polls, defeating her bitter rival, former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who initiated peace efforts with the Liberation Tigers of Tamileelam two years ago.
Kumaratunga, who was left blind in one eye by a Tiger assassination attempt, accused Wickremesinghe of making too many concessions to the rebels.
But in her election platform, Kumaratunga promised to revive the stalled peace talks with the rebels, who began fighting in 1983 to carve out a separate state for the minority Tamil ethnic group, accusing the majority Sinhalese of discrimination.
More than 65,000 people died before a cease-fire was signed in February 2002.
``A resumption of peace talks with the LTT is our top priority and we are taking steps to restart the process,'' Peiris said Saturday. He did not elaborate, but other sources said Kumaratunga will take concrete steps after the new parliament convenes on April 22.
The LTT presented a blueprint for self-rule last October. It called for a largely independent territory with control over its own administration, police and legal system, unrestricted access to the sea, and the right to collect taxes and receive direct foreign aid.
The proposal was shelved after Kumaratunga seized control over three vital ministries from Wickremesinghe in November 2003. Kumaratunga dissolved Parliament in February and ordered elections more than three years ahead of schedule.
Published: Sat Apr 17 03:24:27 EDT 2004