Rajapakse wants referendum on abolishing CFA – state media

[TamilNet, Sunday, 01 April 2007, 13:41 GMT]
Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapakse plans to hold a referendum to decide whether the Sri Lankan government should continue to abide by the 2002 Ceasefire Agreement (CFA), state media reported Sunday, quoting “a high ranking official of the Presidential Secretariat.” The official was quoted by the Sunday Observer as saying “President Rajapaksa is keen to obtain a fresh mandate from the people on the CFA. The President is interested in looking at the proposed abolition of the CFA in a 'democratic manner', enabling the voters to decide on the fate of the CFA.”

Asked when the Government would go for such a referendum on the future of the CFA, Presidential Secretariat sources told the Sunday Observer it would be held “soon.”

"If the people oppose the CFA and vote in favour of abolishing it, then the Government would go ahead to withdraw from it. But nothing would be done against the majority wish. The President strongly believes that the future of the CFA should be decided by the people of this country," the official said.

The Sunday Observer said “calls to abolish the controversial agreement have increased after the LTTE air attack at the Katunayake Air Force base” on Monday.

“There have been many instances where the Tiger terrorists used the CFA 'cover' to smuggle parts of light aircraft,” the paper said.

The CFA was signed in February 2002 by LTTE leader Vellupillai Pirapaharan and then Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, despite opposition by then President Chandrika Kumaratunga.

The CFA, which included monitoring of the truce by international observers, was hailed by the international community but drew the ire of Sinhala nationalists.

Rajapakse, who took the majority of Sinhala votes, defeating archrival Wickremesinghe in the Nov. 2005 Presidential elections, came to power on a Sinhala nationalist platform which includes vehement opposition to the CFA.

Earlier this month, Sri Lanka’s Court of Appeal dismissed a petition filed against the CFA by leading Sinhala nationalists.

Throwing out the petition, Justice S. Sriskandarajah held there was no legal basis for the appeal, and pointed out that two successive Sri Lankan government and two successive Presidents – Kumaratunga and Rajapakse – had not formerly terminated it.

“As there is no statutory power conferred on the CFA, or involved in the formulation on the CFA, it has no legal consequences or legal impact. Therefore, it cannot be tested in court for its legality, and hence the CFA is not amenable to judicial review,” press reports quoted the judgement as saying.

However, President Rajapakse, speaking on Sri Lankan television has said the CFA is an irrelevancy to his government, which has, since mid-2006 been conducting a series of major offensives against the LTTE, particularly in the eastern province.

In the past fifteen months, international monitors say several thousand people, including thousands of civilians have died in confrontations and a murderous campaign of abductions and extra-judicial killings in the Northeast.


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