Sri Lanka president launches fresh effort to revive peace bid
Mon October 4, 2004 10:53 EDT .
SHIMALI SENANAYAKE - Associated Press Writer - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) President Chandrika Kumaratunga vowed on Monday to do whatever it takes to prevent Sri Lanka - from sliding back into civil war as she launched the government's latest effort to revive the nation's nearly moribund peace process.
``We are presently seeking through intense dialogue, to recommence the stalled negotiations process with the (Tamil Tiger rebels),'' Kumaratunga said, without elaborating.
``We have and we shall do all that is required of a democratic and responsible government, to ensure that we do not return to armed conflict,'' she added.
Kumaratunga was speaking at the inaugural meeting of the government's National Advisory Council on Peace and Reconciliation. The council is tasked with holding consultations with lawmakers, religious and civic leaders and giving advice to the government.
However, several major opposition parties have refused to participate in the council, accusing the government of failing to tackle substantive issues impeding the peace process.
``I would urge your excellency to commence talks with the (rebels),'' Ranil Wickremesinghe, the former premier and opposition leader, said in a letter to the president.
Wickremesinghe's government had signed a truce with the rebels in 2002, and launched peace talks that were suspended in April 2003
Kumaratunga denied the council was a stalling tactic.
``We are not looking for ways ... to shove off our responsibilities on the advisory council as a pretext to run away from the challenges,'' Kumaratunga said.
Efforts to revive peace talks have failed over rebel demands for wide autonomy.
The Tigers had been fighting since 1983 to carve out an independent homeland for the island's ethnic Tamil minority, who claim discrimination by the majority Sinhalese. Nearly 65,000 people were killed before the two sides signed the Norway-brokered cease-fire in February 2002.
Published: Mon Oct 4 19:44:28 EDT 2004