UNP boycotts peace meet

[TamilNet, Thursday, 22 October 1998, 22:20 GMT]
An ambitious all party, all NGO discussion forum called by the most powerful trade and industrial associations of Sri Lanka mainly with a view to iterate the need for peacefully resolving the war in the island's north-east drew mixed reactions despite general agreement among participants that seeking peace is of utmost importance today.

The main opposition party, the UNP, the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP), the Communist Party, the JVP(People's Liberation Front) and the Mahajana Eksath Peramuna (MEP) kept away.

All the Tamil parties and the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress attended the discussion which was held in the committee hall of the Bandaranaike Memorial Conference Hall.

The discussion was organised on a ten point proposal by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, the National Chamber of Commerce of Sri Lanka, the Ceylon National Chamber of Industries, the Federation of the Chambers of Commerce and Industry in Sri Lanka, the Ceylon Employer's Federation and the Exporters Association of Sri Lanka.

The first proposal calls for the "effective resolution of the conflict in the north-east of Sri Lanka."

The war in Sri Lanka should be stopped forthwith and the Sri Lankan security forces should be withdrawn from the north-eastern parts of the island said Mr. Linneus Jayatilleka of the United Left Front speaking at the forum today.

All Ceylon Tamil Congress Gen. Sec. Kumar Ponnambalam asserted that the urgent need of the hour is to send food relief to the people of Vanni.

Most of the Tamil party leaders who were present did not express their opinion.

The organisers said that they would bring the matter to the President's notice and do whatever they can for the people of the Vanni in their capacity as private businesses.

The Sri Lankan Minister of Industries, C.V Gunaratna who represented the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) at the forum claimed that there are 38 funding agencies world-wide which support the Liberation Tigers and that an understanding should be reached with these agencies to solve the conflict.

An attempt by some Sinhala nationalist groups to raise the question of terrorism in connection with bomb blasts in Colombo were politely but firmly put down by the organisers who were patently keen to avoid any such criticism of the Liberation Tigers at the discussion.

The US ambassador and Minister for Constitutional Affairs Prof. G.L Pieris also spoke on the need for peace for development.

A wag's quip at the conclusion of the proceedings reflected the scepticism among many participants.

"The government is so cash strapped that it is handing over everything to the private sector.

So now it has decided to privatise the resolution of the conflict too" he said, summing up his reaction to the meeting today.

 

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