Political parties yesterday welcomed President Mahinda Rajapakse`s stand that peace talks should not be restricted to the government and the LTTE, parties to the Oslo-arranged Cease-Fire Agreement (CFA).
Addressing Friday`s all-party conference at the Presidential Secretariat, Rajapakse emphasised the need to involve parties outside the CFA in the peace process. The UNP, JVP, JHU, MEP, NUA, LSSP, CP and EPDP welcomed the president`s statement coming a week before the first direct meeting since the LTTE quit negotiations in April 2003 during Ranil Wickremesinghe`s tenure as prime minister.
Ministerial and military sources expressed the belief that the co-chairs to the Tokyo Donor Conference, namely, the US, 25-nation EU now under Austrian leadership, Japan and facilitator Norway would not allow the LTTE to disrupt the process on flimsy grounds. They said the Indo-Lanka call for proscription of the LTTE made in the backdrop of Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar`s assassination last August was not dormant. A ministerial source said the request would not be dropped.
`The LTTE must know that it cannot take advantage of the situation,` he said, adding that the Nordic truce monitoring mission`s reports on CFA violations expose extensive transgressions by the LTTE. The reports revealed that the LTTE brazenly violated the CFA on over 3,400 occasions against less than 170 rulings against the security forces during the February 2002 to December 31, 2005 period.
The president acknowledged the importance in maintaining the CFA but dismissed the view that other parties could not be accommodated. Political sources said Friday`s statement was evidence that the government would not accept the LTTE as the sole representative of the Tamil speaking people. The LTTE demands recognition both here and overseas as the sole representative of the Tamil speaking people.
TULF leader V. Anandasangaree appreciated Rajapakse`s forthright view on this contentious issue.
Rajapakse Friday assured that his government accept that other political parties also have a stake in the peace process. Rajapakse said he would not want to categorise one party a stakeholder and the rest as spoilers.
`This applies to the north as well. Although the LTTE is party to the CFA other forces representing the interests of the Tamil speaking people, too, should have a stake in the process,` he said.
Rajapakse revealed that the government`s negotiating team for direct contact with the LTTE was advised in this regard. He dismisses the ongoing debate over whether the CFA should be amended, strengthened, reviewed and reconsidered.
`This is immaterial,` he said, `there is no point in arguing this.`
Different political parties would interpret these words to suit their strategies, he said, while emphasising the need to maintain what he termed as a meaningful cease-fire. Rajapakse said the government values the contribution of parties represented at the all-party-conference.
Expressing confidence in the negotiating skills of the team, Rajapakse thanked Professor G. L. Pieris and eminent lawyer S. L. Gunasekara for sharing their experiences ahead of the forthcoming talks.