UPFA urged to adopt consistent stand on ISGA

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 24 August 2004, 00:41 GMT]
United National Party (UNP) in an 8-page statement issued Monday said that UNP is "saddened by the steadfast refusal of the present UPFA government to adopt a coherent and internally consistent stand in respect of their attitude to the current ISGA proposals," and accused the UPFA government for making confusing and contradictory statements leading to the current impasse, jeopardizing the ceasefire agreement.

"The LTTE's proposal relating to the ISGA was prepared and submitted against the background of several successive formulations, detailed in substance, proposed by the UNF Government. There was neither reticence on our part, nor reluctance to deal with these admittedly controversial issues while we were in charge of the peace process," states the document outlining the sequences of the events in the peace process.

"It is abundantly clear that statements emanating from the present Government are confused and contradictory. We regard this as the principal reason for the current impasse which places in jeopardy not only the negotiations regarding a political settlement but even the ceasefire agreement itself," warns the UNP statement.

Some excerpts from the statement follow:

“It is quite evident that, given the long and acrimonious history of the conflict and the complexity of the issues involved, there could not be any realistic expectation of arriving at, and implementing a final solution immediately. This is the context in which the consideration of interim measures is not only desirable but [also] necessary. If comparative experience of other countries grappling with similar problems is to be relied upon as a guide, it is worth noting that interim structures represented a pivotal ingredient of the successful peace process in South Africa."

"Several proposals regarding the establishment of an interim structure, and suggestions in respect of its powers and responsibilities within the framework of Sri Lanka's constitutions system, had been submitted by the United National Front Government to the LTTE through the Royal Norwegian Government functioning as facilitator, during the months preceding the submission of the LTTE's ISGA proposal."

“The substance of the UNF Government's response to the ISGA proposals of the LTTE was that the Government was prepared to enter into a direct dialogue with the LTTE, with the benefit of facilitation by the Norwegian Government, on the subject of the ISGA proposal.”

"We said in our response of 1st November 2003: The Government's approach to these talks is one of principled negotiation directed towards the establishment of common ground in respect of significantly divergent positions."

"We would like to draw attention particularly to the following sentence in the statement of the ISGA proposal issued by Professor G. L. Peiris on 1st November 2003 on behalf of the United National Front Government: We regard these values as essential and indispensable to the peace process culminating in a final accord."

"The underlying emphasis is on the applicability of these values to the whole of the peace process, which includes interim mechanisms as well as the components of the final solution."

"The principles by which we stand are those set out with exemplary clarity in the documents which constitute the bedrock of the peace process, principally the Oslo statement of December 2002 and the Tokyo Declaration of June 2003."

"It was on the basis of the substance of the Tokyo Declaration that the participating donor countries and international organisations demonstrated their willingness to extend assistance to the whole country, in a cumulative estimated amount, in excess of 4.5 billion US Dollars over a four year period."

"The LTTE's proposal relating to the ISGA was prepared and submitted against the background of several successive formulations, detailed in substance, proposed by the United National Front Government. There was neither reticence on our part, nor reluctance to deal with these admittedly controversial issues while we were in charge of the peace process on the basis of a mandate derived from the people of our country."

"By contrast, we are saddened by the steadfast refusal of the present UPFA government to adopt a coherent and internally consistent stand in respect of their attitude to the current ISGA proposal. It is abundantly clear that statements emanating from the present Government are confused and contradictory. We regard this as the principal reason for the current impasse which places in jeopardy not only the negotiations regarding a political settlement but even the ceasefire agreement itself."

"The Sri Lanka Freedom Party reacted officially to the LTTE's ISGA proposal within four days of its submission to the Government. The document of the 4th November 2003, entitled 'Statement by the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) on the LTTE's proposal for an Interim Self-Governing Authority (ISGA) for the North and East of Sri Lanka', categorically asserts that the LTTE's proposal 'lays the legal foundation for a future, separate, sovereign state' and, indeed, that 'the proposals clearly affect the sovereignty of the Republic of Sri Lanka and violate its Constitution." The whole tenor and substance of this document, consisting of 7 pages, make it explicit that the SLFP’s rejection of the ISGA proposal submitted by the LTTE, is absolute, derisive and uncompromising. There is no room for dialogue or discussion at all."

"What became almost immediately clear, however, is that the vehemently expressed views of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party in its official release, under the hand of the General Secretary of that Party, were certainly not those of the Leader of that Party, Her Excellency the President herself. The President, in sharp contradiction of her Party, repeatedly stated that she was agreeable to commencement of a dialogue with the LTTE on the footing of the ISGA proposal submitted by the latter."

"It was far from clear, nevertheless, whether this willingness on the part of the President was to discuss the ISGA proposal, by itself and without linkage to any other issues, or whether she was prepared to enter into discussion on the ISGA proposal only if issues connected with the final solution formed part and parcel of the discussion. When Her Excellency met with Members of Parliament belonging to the Tamil National Alliance last month, she adopted the former position. On the other hand, when she addressed the nation three days later, she committed herself to the latter position."

"This kind of ambiguity does not characterise the position of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna on the subject of the ISGA proposal. From the outset, the JVP's opposition to the LTTE's ISGA proposal has been strident and unequivocal. Mr. Tilvin Silva, the General Secretary of the JVP, is on record as having stated that, if Her Excellency were to commence a dialogue with the LTTE on the ISGA proposal, the JVP would be compelled to intervene. Within hours of the release of the results of the Provincial Council elections in six Provinces held on 10th July 2004, the JVP put up posters all over the country denouncing the ISGA as the path to Eelam and expressing their unrelenting opposition to it. In an interview published in a Sunday newspaper on 11th July 2004, Mr. Somawansa Amerasinghe, the leader of the JVP, declared that the JVP is implacably opposed to the ISGA, whether it is linked to a proposed final solution or not. Soon afterwards, Mr. Somawansa Amerasinghe, during a visit to the Venerable Mahanayake of Malvatte on 16th July, is quoted in the media as stating categorically that the JVP has always opposed the ISGA proposal and will continue to do so."

"It is in these circumstances that the UPFA government, according to reports in the media during the last few days, contemplates the soliciting of support among Opposition Parties in connection with the revival of the peace process, now regrettably stalled."

"The straws are again in the wind, and there is widespread unease about the fragility of the ceasefire. Within the last few days the Head of Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission is reported to have sounded a note of warning regarding the need for urgent remedial action in this regard. In particular, the volatile nature of the situation in the East Province is all too obvious. The circumstances are far too grave for us to adopt the attitude: 'We told you so'. "

"We ask the Government to take stock of the prevailing situation, to identify the options at its disposal, to consult in a spirit of openness with the constituent parties of the ruling coalition and to be resolute in the making of decisions which the safety of the nation demands. Above all the Government should speak with one voice and inspire confidence."

"As the largest single political party in the present Parliament, we are not merely prepared but eager to involve ourselves vigorously in a truly national endeavor. But we are mindful that this will be fruitful only if the Government, by virtue of the responsibilities necessarily devolving upon it as the repository of public power charged with guiding the destiny of the nation, does not take the path of least resistance and abdicate its duty."

 

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