The Lanka Academic

 
FEBRUARY 22, 2006 EST, USA
 
QUAERE VERUM
 
VOL. 6, NO. 322

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Sri Lanka government, Tamil rebel truce talks off to a rocky start
Shimali Senanayake in CELIGNY, Switzerland, February 22nd 2006. The Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tiger rebels locked-horns immediately after opening talks on Wednesday, breaking a three-year deadlock, as Norwegian peace brokers cautioned against any high expectations at the end of the two-day meeting.

The government in a hard-hitting opening statement called the cease-fire agreement _ that is four years old to the date _ "contrary to our constitution and law."

"It is prejudicial to the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of the republic of Sri Lanka," the government's chief negotiator Nimal Siripala de Silva said in his opening remarks.

"We propose to rectify certain grave anomalies arising from the agreement," he said, recording the need for a fresh agreement.

De Silva also highlighted a string of truce violations committed by the LTTE, including child recruitment, human rights violations and killings with spacial mention of the assassination of foreign minister Lakshan Kadirgamar.

The LTTE's chief negotiator Anton Balasingham, rising to respond, rejected government allegations, calling the 5,464 violations by the LTTE "exaggerated figures."

"We cannot accept such exaggerated figures as authentic acts of ceasefire violations," Balasingham, dressed in a three-piece suit told the government team.

He said many of the figures were attributed to child recruitment "without taking into consideration the complex child rights issues in the northeast and the number of children released by the LTTE."

"We do agree that there have been serious breaches of the cease-fire agreement, for which the parties in conflict, as well as the Tamil paramilitaries, should bear culpability," he said.

He however, pointed out there was no point is having a "recriminatory debate," of accusations and counter accusations against each other over the abuses of the truce.

Instead of "engaging in acrimonious bickering that might poison the atmosphere of goodwill, it would be prudent to engage in a constructive discussion, exploring ways and means to stabilise and strengthen the cease-fire agreement," he said, infusing some hope for the two-day talks.

The hard-hitting statements however didn't auger well to push the parties to a flying start.

The situation was worsened when the government found out that the LTTE had released its opening remarks to the press via the pro-rebel TamilNet Web site.

"This is a breach of the agreement we came to, not to release statements to the media before the talks were concluded," a senior government official said. "So will release our statement as well."

The government statement was made available on the peace secretariat Web si te.

Breaking for lunch at mid-day, the government negotiators convened an internal meeting and then telephoned Temple Trees _ via the special communication link set up at the venue _ to inform President Mahinda Rajapakse of the developments after the first three hours of negotiations.

Wednesday's talks coincides with the fourth anniversary of the Norwegian-brokered cease-fire agreement that haul ted a two decades of civil war that had killed nearly 65,000 people.

Before the two warring parties made their opening remarks, Norway's international development minister and peace envy Erik Solheim expressed guarded optimism about the talks, playing down expectations of any breakthroughs.

"What should be achieved is increasing confidence between the parties =85 and agreement for a new meeting," Solheim said at the opening amid a packed room of journalists.

Soon after, the two chief negotiators were edged together by photographers for the customary handshake to mark the opening of the meeting _ the first between the two sides in three years.

Their body language conveyed the gulf that need to be bridged between the parties.

However, Solheim commended the parties for their presence in Switzerland after the island came close to the brink of war in recent weeks.

"There is very little confidence between the two sides =85 but confidence can increase," Solheim said, addressing the parties hopefully, as he noted that most of the negotiators had never met, since the latest talks were under a new administration.

The government and LTTE delegations, dressed in three piece Western suits, walked in separately to a wood-paneled room with large glass windows to take their seats opposite each other.

Both delegations seemed unsure about the seating arrangements and there was a little muffling initially when de Silva attempted to sit on the seats allotted to the LTTE and Balasingham tried to sit on a seat demarcated for the Tigers' advisory team.

In the next 1 =BD days, the government delegation is likely to push for an appendix to the current agreement by fleshing out contentious clauses like, disarming of paramilitary groups and offensive operations against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam or LTTE, the officials said.

The Tigers are expected to demand reigning down on a breakaway rebel group led by a senior leader of the Tigers, V. Muralitheran, better known as Karuna. The unpresidented breakup in March 2004, has cost the LTTE heavily and they accuse government forces of colluding with the renegade group.

Hours before talks opened, diplomats involved in the process said, negotiations were looking "difficult," but still expressed hope that the parties will at least agree to meet again.

"It's not the words that count but the extent these words are implemented in real life after the talks," Solheim said, "That is the real challenge."

Both delegations arrived at the venue, the Chateau de Bossey, with a break taking view of the Alps and lake Geneva, after haggling for months over the venue. Both sides were confined to the isolated ch=E2teau, surrounded by large fields and vineyards, for at least 36 hours as they prepared for the crucial meeting.

On Wednesday, they moved to a smaller building in the compound to talk at two three hour sessions, before and after lunch.

Security was tight as Swiss police cordoned used metal detectors and frisked journalists forced before allowing them indoors.

Solheim, seated at the head table facilitated the meeting, aided by Norway^s former deputy foreign minister Vidar Helgesen.

The seven-member government delegation was supported by seven other advisors seated right behind them, while the six-member rebel team was also supported by seven advisors.

Norwegian officials said the parties still have not decided how they intend to brief the press at the end of the talks on Thursday.

Previous six rounds of talks under the former administration saw the parties at a common podium. The decision will solely depend on how the talks proceed, the officials said.

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Published: Wed Feb 22 08:49:50 EST 2006

Related News Stories
·
Colombo, LTTE take opposing positions  - hindu.com
·
Sri Lankan government, Tamil leaders begin two-day peace talks near Geneva  - Associated Press

Government deplores large number of killings after ceasefire - Full Statment by Minister Nimal Siripala DeSilva
Saman Weragoda, SLT 6.00 P.M Wednesday 22 February 2006. The government of Sri Lanka has deplored the large number of killings of Sri Lankans of various ethnic groups after the ceasefire of February 2002. The government says these killings have seriously undermined the ceasefire and expresses its grave displeasure and disappointment that deficiencies in the ceasefire agreement have been exploited in this manner, leading to serious strains being placed on the enforcement machinery of the system of law and order.

Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva Head of Delegation, Government of Sri Lanka at the opening session of the talks between Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE today said ‘’On behalf of H.E. the President of the Republic of Sri Lanka Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Government of Sri Lanka, I am pleased to make these preliminary comments at the commencement of the talks between the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE, facilitated by the Royal Norwegian Government and hosted by the Government of Switzerland. At the outset, let me thank all the parties, including the Co-Chairs, who have worked More...

Discuss this story
Published: Wed Feb 22 08:49:27 EST 2006 Back to the top


Ceasefire Agreement is foundation of peace and must be implemented - Balasingham
TamilNet, February 22. Describing the February 2002 ceasefire agreement (CFA) as the “most constructive achievement” of the Norwegian peace process and “the foundation upon which the process has to be built,” the Liberation Tigers’ Chief Negotiator and Political Strategist, Anton Balasingham said Wednesday the CFA had been agreed upon by both the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE after “careful and meticulous scrutiny” and crafted with the skilled assistance of the Norwegian facilitators. More...

Discuss this story
Published: Wed Feb 22 08:29:43 EST 2006 Back to the top


Swiss tighten security at talk's venue
Saman Weragoda in Colombo, SLT 10.45 A.M Wednesday 22 February 2006. The Security at the venue where the government and the LTTE will have the Ceasefire talks will be tight and will be more than what one could expect Swiss officials told the Lanka Academic... Back to the top

Talks likely to keep Lanka peace wagon rolling
deccanherald.com, February 23, 2006. Despite low expectations, the reconvened meeting between the new Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tigers on Wednesday is likely to keep the peace process going and generate a momentum towards confidence-building measures, analysts said... Back to the top

Sri Lanka government, Tamil Tiger rebels brace to talk tough at truce meet
Shimali Senanayake in Geneva, February 22nd, 2006, GT 01:00 am.. The Sri Lankan government and Tamil Tiger rebel negotiators were set to take tough positions when they open talks on Wednesday for the first time in three years aimed at saving the island from sliding back to civil war... Back to the top

Protests in Geneva against LTTE
Saman Weragoda in Colombo, SLT 11.00 P.M Wednesday 22 February 2006. Sri Lankan Tamil, Muslims and Sinhalese protested against the LTTE in Geneva today in front of the United Nations office... Back to the top

Renegades says kill S.Lanka Tiger rebel before talks
reuters.com, February 22, 07:31 EDT. COLOMBO (Reuters) - Renegade Sri Lankan rebels said on Wednesday they shot and killed a Tamil Tiger rebel just hours before talks in Switzerland seen vital to avert a return to civil war, dismissing Tiger claims the army was involved... Back to the top

No peace, no truce: All LTTE wants is Karuna
Hindustan Times, february 22. The main aim of the Tamil Tigers at the Geneva talks is to force the Sri Lankan Government to hand over Karuna, the renegade Tiger commander, and not search for peace, says a leading expert on South Asian Affairs... Back to the top

Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Christian scholars pray for peace in Sri Lanka
Associated Press, Wed February 22, 2006 03:51 EST . COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) Hundreds of delegates from Sri Lanka - 's four main religious groups prayed for the success of peace talks between the separatist Tamil Tiger rebels and the government opening in Geneva later Wednesday... Back to the top

Sri Lanka Peace Talks in Geneva Aim to Boost Cease-Fire Accord
bloomberg.com, February 21, 2006, 23:00 EDT. Feb. 22 (Bloomberg) -- Sri Lanka's government and Tamil Tiger rebels mark the fourth anniversary of their cease-fire by starting peace talks today, as an upsurge in violence in the south Asian island threatens a return to civil war. Two days of talks in Geneva are being mediated by Norway and Switzerland... Back to the top

Sri Lanka peace talks puts bitter foes at crossroads
ft.com, February 21, 2006, 23:00 EDT. Sri Lanka and the Tamil separatists will today hold their first round of peace talks in almost three years, amid an alarming rise in violence and fears about the consequences of failing to revive the ceasefire... Back to the top

Sri Lanka Muslims want independent delegation at talks with Tigers
people.com.cn, February 21, 2006, 23:00 EDT. Sri Lanka's minority Muslim community on Tuesday called for a "separate and independent Muslim delegation at all future talks" with the Tamil Tigers... Back to the top

Sri Lanka keeps eye on birds and humans as bird flu ravages Asia
Associated Press, Wed February 22, 2006 06:51 EST . BHARATHA MALLAWARACHI - Associated Press Writer - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) Sri Lanka - is keeping a close eye on poultry farms and bird sanctuaries after an outbreak of bird flu in neighboring India resulted in the slaughter of half a million chickens, a health official said Wednesday... Back to the top

Swede Takes Over Sri Lanka Truce Monitors
sr.se, February 22, 07:31 EDT. A high-ranking Swedish officer has been appointed as head of the Nordic observer mission to Sri Lanka... Back to the top

Bangladesh beat Sri Lanka by four wickets in historic win
Associated Press, Wed February 22, 2006 06:56 EST . - - BOGRA, Bangladesh (AP) A half century by Mohammad Ashraful and his 63 run fourth-wicket partnership with captain Habibul Bashar inspired Bangladesh to beat Sri Lanka - by four wickets Wednesday in the second limited-overs cricket international... Back to the top

Sri Lanka to record need for a new cease-fire with Tamil rebels at Switzerland talks
Shimali Senanayake in Geneva, February 21th, 2006, GT 8:00 am. GENEVA The Sri Lankan government will inform the Tamil Tiger rebels of the need for a fresh cease-fire agreement but will not insist on replacing the pact when they meet on Wednesday for the first time in nearly three years to save the island from slipping back to war, officials said... Back to the top

Governments Agenda is for Peace- Bogollagama
Saman Weragoda in Colombo, SLT 1.00 A.M Wednesday 22 February 2006. Minister Rohitha Bogollama says the government's agenda during the Ceasefire talks in Switzerland would be for peace and the government was looking for a formula for peace since the conflict has affected all Sri Lankans... Back to the top

Government delegation hold talks with Norwegians
Saman Weragoda in Colombo, SLT 8.15 P.M Tuesday 21 February, 2006. The government delegation led by Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva held talks with former Norwegian Deputy Minister Vidar Helgessen and Norwegian Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Vidar Helgessen in Switzerland... Back to the top

Mediators hope to invoke 'Geneva spirit' in Sri Lankan peace talks
Associated Press, Tue February 21, 2006 13:46 EST . BRADLEY S. KLAPPER - Associated Press Writer - GENEVA (AP) Mediators meeting this week to ease tension in Sri Lanka - hope to invoke Geneva's century-old tradition as a city of peace... Back to the top

Interfaith prayers for peace talks begin in northern Sri Lanka , Buddhists to join later
Associated Press, Tue February 21, 2006 08:17 EST . VINCENT JEYAN - Associated Press Writer - JAFFNA, Sri Lanka - (AP) Hindus, Muslims and Christians in Sri Lanka - 's troubled northern Jaffna peninsula prayed together for peace Tuesday, the eve of negotiations between the Buddhist-dominated government and mostly Hindu separatist rebels... Back to the top

Government negotiator to lobby for Muslim representation at talks with Tamil rebels
Shimali Senanayake in Geneva, February 21st, 2006, GT 11.30 am. A Sri Lankan Muslim politician on Tuesday said she will lobby for a separate Muslim delegation when the two sides open talks on Wednesday for the first time in three years... Back to the top

Sri Lankan government, Tamil leaders prepare for two-day peace talks near Geneva
Associated Press, Tue February 21, 2006 06:14 EST . BRADLEY S. KLAPPER - Associated Press Writer - Just agreeing to talk has helped to reduce the number of Sri Lankans fleeing their homes in fear, according to U... Back to the top

Reliance keen on entering Lankan oil industry
hindustantimes.com, February 21. Reliance Industries Ltd is exploring the possibility of entering the Sri Lankan oil sector in the field of exploration and refining... Back to the top

LTTE may say CFA doesn’t ban child recruitment
hindustantimes.com, February 21. At the talks with the Sri Lankan government at Geneva beginning on Wednesday, the LTTE may argue that child recruitment cannot be taken as a violation of the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) because child recruitment is not even mentioned in the CFA! According to a report from Geneva in the leading Tamil daily Sudar Oli on Tuesday, the LTTE is going to point out that Article 1 and 2 of the CFA mention only "abduction" as being a violation... Back to the top

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