UNP: Ready to talk, but no guarantees
[TamilNet, Wednesday, 20 October 1999, 04:08 GMT]
The Leader of the Opposition and the President of the United National Party, Ranil Wickremasinghe, in his reply to the President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunge avoided stating his position in regard to the guarantees she felt were necessary to find a bipartisan solution to the ethnic problem.
Responding to the speech by the Opposition Leader at the Foreign Investors' conference in Colombo recently, calling on the government, in consultation with the opposition, to start negotiations with the Liberation Tigers, the President sought four guarantees from the Leader of the Opposition, in moving the peace process forward.
In his reply to the President sent today, Ranil Wickremasinghe has not said anything about the four guarantees sought by her.
Instead, the UNP President has told the President: "We stand ready to respond speedily and constructively, so that we could together proceed, on an urgent basis, to move this important process forward, in search of a viable solution".
In a two-page reply Mr. Wickremasinghe states:
" I am pleased to gather from your letter that my address to the Fund Manager's conference has moved you to renewed efforts to discuss with the LTTE the possibility of a political solution to the ethnic strife in our country.
"My party and I endorsed the initiative of Liam Fox, to design a bipartisan mechanism through which the LTTE could be consulted. I looked forward to receiving, even at this late stage, in accordance with that procedure, your formal confirmation that the Government is now prepared to initiate discussion with the LTTE, and is, in that context, consulting me as the leader of the United National Party.
"We stand ready to respond speedily and constructively, so that we could together proceed, on an urgent basis, to move this important process forward.
"The UNP and I personally, have carefully examined all the proposals you have made in the past and as you are aware, we forwarded the 'Proposals of the United National Party' to the Select Committee on the Constitution chaired by the Minister G. L. Peiris. The search for a viable solution has, for us too, the highest priority. We want, as well, to secure for such a solution, a broad consensus among groups with diverse views on the matter. We would be able to give our whole-hearted support to proposals, which would achieve that purpose. Correspondingly, we would not be in a position to support proposals that appear, in our estimation, either to be impractical, or to carry within them the seeds of future conflict and prolonged misery.
"Despite the unwarranted attacks you have made on the UNP, and on me personally, I re-iterate our determination to work towards bringing this conflict to an end at the earliest possible time, and laying the foundation for a peace and harmony, which remains our common goal," concluded the UNP leader.
It may be recalled that the President, in her eight-page letter to the Leader of the Opposition on October 19, sought four guarantees to prove his sincerity, to move forward meaningfully in the peace process he proposed in his speech to the Foreign Investors' Conference.
The President sought the following guarantees from the Leader of the Opposition:
"1. The UNP's specific proposals for a solution to the ethnic problem, or,
"2. The UNP's specific views on the entire set of proposals already presented by this government.
"3. A specific date by which the UNP intends to start discussions and a time frame in which to reach final conclusions.
"4. A full and honest explanation to the people of this country of the content and purpose of the several discussions the UNP MP Dr. Jayalath Jayawardene has had with LTTE leaders in the Wanni, over the last two years."