The Lanka Academic

VOL. 6, NO. 304


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Headline Summary
F R E E      C L A S S I F I E D S
T  O  P      H  E  A  D  L  I  N  E
Government ready for talks with the LTTE on Feb. 15-16
Shimali Senanayake in Colombo, February 4th, 2006, 8:30 pm. The government has informed the LTTE that it is ready to resume talks on Feb. 15-16 in the Swiss capital Geneva. The government picked the dates from three options between Feb. 15 and 22 and made known their decision through the Norwegian peace brokers. However, the LTTE is yet to respond.

The president's office is also taking steps to train the Sri Lankan team in international negotiations ahead of facing a rather formidable Tamil Tiger rebel team led by chief negotiator Anton Balasingham, officials involved in the peace process said, on condition of anonymity.

The Sri Lankan delegation led by Health Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva are set to under go an "awareness," workshop next week to get them up to speed on issues concerning the Feb. 2002 cease-fire agreement and the peace process.

Matters related to federalism, confederalism and violations of the cease-fire agreement are among the issues that will be discussed at the meeting led by a team of local conflict experts.

Efforts are also being made to get a team of international conflict gurus from South Africa Northern Ireland and the United States to beef-up Sri Lankan team on negotiating skills. However, the officials were unsure if these experts can be brought down before talks are set to commence.

The Geneva talks were put off-balance this week, after the Tamil Tigers threatened to pull out of talks over the alleged abduction of 10 members of the pro-rebel Tamil Rehabilitation Organization. Three were released but seven are still missing, according to the aid group.

Norway's top peace broker clinched a deal last week between the government and the rebels to resume negotiations after an almost three year deadlock

The Tamil Tigers began fighting in 1983 to carve out an independent homeland for the island's 3.2 million Tamil minority, who claim discrimination by the majority Sinhalese. The fighting killed nearly 65,000 before Norway brokered a cease-fire in February 2002. But subsequent peace talks collapsed in April 2003 amid rebel demands for wide autonomy in the Tamil-dominated north and east.

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Published: Sat Feb 4 10:44:05 EST 2006

Opposition Leader criticized for making anti-peace statements
Munza Mushtaq in Colombo, February 4, 2006, 4.49 p.m.. Opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe has come under considerable flak for making negative statements with regard to the resumption of peace talks scheduled to take place this month in Geneva.

Several political parties and Ministers termed Wickremesinghe's utterance as a 'childish and unbecoming' statement from a leader of a respected political party in Sri Lanka. The UNP leader addressing a meeting in Matara had said that talks in Geneva will fail unless the Government agrees to disarm the Karuna faction.

Dissident UNP MP and now Minister of Policy Planning & Implementation Keheliya Rambukwella, termed the statement of the Opposition leader as 'dubious' while also expressing his apprehensions. "Such a statement coming from the person who initiated the process is very disturbing. It is very sad to note that this kind of a statement is coming from Mr. Wickremesinghe," Rambukwella told the Weekend Standard, an English weekend tabloid newspaper.

He also pointed out that with even the agenda still not published how can he make such claims, specially taking into account that finally after months and months of waiting positive signs are emerging after both parties agreed to resume peace talks in Geneva, and thus such a negative statement was not only disturbing but also extremely dubious.

The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna noted that the UNP Leader's statement was not only extremely negative to the entire peace process but was very childish. "As a main party, they should be supporting the Government and instead of trying to sabotage the process."

A National Unity Alliance spokesman said that Mr. Wickremesinghe's statement was very irresponsible. "He must be optimistic and not pessimistic, and not always try to blame the Government for everything," the NUA spokesman said.

The Spokesman also pointed out that with the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission also making a statement to the effect that there was no evidence to say that the Sri Lankan Army was supporting the Karuna group, he saw no reason why the UNP leader had to keep insisting 'indirectly' that the Army was supporting Karuna.

Meanwhile, Information and Media Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa reacting to Mr. Wickremesinghe's comments said that the statement only proves Mr. Wickremesinghe's political bankruptcy and hypocrisy and a repetition of his past opportunistic politics, which is rather unbecoming of a political leader of his calibre.

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Published: Sat Feb 4 05:53:19 EST 2006 Back to the top

President backs Sri Lanka unity, Saturday, 4 February 2006. Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse has said the country cannot be divided, in comments coming ahead of crucial talks with the Tamil Tiger rebels.

Mr Rajapakse was speaking at a ceremony to mark Sri Lanka's independence from colonial rule.

The Norway brokered talks are being held against a background of an increase in violence.

More than 64,000 people have died in two decades of fighting between the government and the rebels.

Speaking at a huge military parade in Colombo Mr Rajapakse said Sri Lanka belonged to all communities and that it could not be separated.

"By dividing this country we cannot solve this problem. It would worsen the situation," the Reuters news agency quotes him as saying.

But he said he hoped to build a permanent peace and insisted that the conflict should not pass into another generation.

Mr Rajapakse was elected with the help of hardline Sinhalese nationalist parties who oppose any concession to the Tiger rebels.

The BBC's Roland Buerk in Colombo says Mr Rajapakse moved to reassure hardline Sinhala nationalist parties who oppose any concession to the Tamil Tigers. More...
Published: Sat Feb 4 17:19:42 EST 2006 Back to the top

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