JVP leaders Friday night skipped a meeting on education reforms with President Chandrika Kumaratunga at President?s House fuelling speculation that the ongoing efforts to restore SLFP-JVP relations have not had the desired result.
It was the first meeting chaired by President Kumaratunga after the JVP recently threatened to quit the fragile coalition over what a party heavyweight termed as unilateral actions, particularly relating to the resumption of negotiations with the LTTE and the finalisation of a mechanism to run tsunami relief, reconstruction and rehabilitation in the northern and eastern provinces.
JVP leader Somawansa Amarasinghe, General Secretary Tilvin Silva, parliamentary group leader Wimal Weerawansa, Nandana Gunatilleke and Agriculture Minister Anura Dissanayake had not joined the delegation.
Political sources said that the JVP participants at the meeting included Cultural Affairs Minister Vijitha Herath, Deputy Agriculture Minister Bimal Ratnayake, Deputy Rural Economy Minister Sunil Handunetti and MPs Wasantha Piyatissa (Ampara) and Jayantha Wijesekera (Trincomalee).
The PA delegation led by President Kumaratunga had included Ministers Mangala Samaraweera and Dinesh Gunawardene and Education Secretary Tara de Mel and University Grants Commission chief Prof. B. R. N. N. Mendis on the official side.
The meeting had begun around 7 p.m. and lasted till 9.40 p.m. The talks had centred on the controversial proposal for educational reforms, particularly the decision to establish a private medical college and the moves to offer degrees through two private sector educational institutions.
The JVP delegation had reiterated what a party source termed `absolute opposition` to the proposed reforms as they would undermine the entire system.
The UGC Chief had assured the JVP that they weren?t planning to privatise or hand-over universities to the private sector, the sources said.
The JVP had called for an immediate end to the ongoing moves to offer degrees through private sector educational institutions. The sources revealed that President Kumaratunga had pointed out that further discussions would be required on this particular issue before taking a final decision.
The JVP delegation had also reiterated its position on the negotiating process and the ongoing efforts to work-out a tsunami rehabilitation scheme for the Northern and Eastern provinces.
The JVP furiously attacked a recent government policy statement that had originated from the Peace Secretariat following a discussion Peace Secretariat Chief Jayantha Dhanapala had with President Kumaratunga.
This statement triggered speculation that the government was ready to accept the demand for an LTTE-run interim administration for the Northern and Eastern provinces to facilitate the resumption of the peace process.
The statement had been discussed by Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar and the JVP leader early last week, political sources said, adding that the JVP, during the meeting, had insisted that they wouldn?t allow the setting up of an Interim Self-Governing Authority (ISGA) or allow the LTTE as a partner in a mechanism to run tsunami relief and reconstruction work in the two provinces.