Opposition leader declines President's invitation

[TamilNet, Monday, 21 February 2000, 14:56 GMT]
Mr. Ranil Wickremasinghe, Leader of the United National Party has declined to participate at tomorrow's discussions with President Chandrika Kumaratunge, on the proposed constitutional reforms. He has informed President Chandrika today by a letter that the best possible course of action open to her is to immediately present in Parliament the proposals tabled in October 1997.

"It would be prudent to fix an early date to discuss the above proposals and other relevant matters on a mutually agreed agenda. Hence, we request that you fix a date for such talks upon receiving this letter. Therefore, our participation at tomorrow's discussions will not be necessary. We are prepared to participate at a future discussion on the basis of what has been detailed in my letter", said Mr. Ranil Wickremasinghe in his letter to the President.

The letter sent by Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe is given below:

"My party has stated its position very clearly on your draft constitutional reforms.

Despite our reservations on the draft constitutional reforms of your government tabled in parliament on October 24, 1997 under the title 'The government's proposals for constitutional reforms' my party offered its support to pass them into law notwithstanding our reservations since it was stated that it was the only and best solution your government had for ending the ethnic conflict.

As such, does it not indicate you have lost faith in your own set of published proposals, when you now seek our solutions to the conflict in addition to wanting discussions with my party on your new proposals instead of taking the necessary steps to have those proposals passed into law?

Your constant refrain earlier was that if you were able to pass your proposals into law, the war could be ended and peace ushered in immediately.

You had further stated, you are unable to abolish the executive presidency and usher in peace to the country because the UNP was withholding the sixteen votes needed to pass the reforms into law.

At a time the UNP has extended its fullest support instead of just 16 votes, rather than accepting same, are you indulging in time wasting exercises once again to hoodwink both the local and the international community? Are you indulging in this exercise with the objective of gaining time to continue with the executive presidential system which you have promised to abolish?

We hope to make available to you before the end of this week, detailed proposals on the independent election commission, independent judicial commission, independent public services commission and the independent police commission which were mentioned in our letter to you dated February 18. And although our proposals with regard to solving the ethnic crisis are no secret since we publicised same during the last presidential election, we shall furnish you with a copy of this document as well.

I wish to re-iterate that, at a time you have sought our co-operation to solve the problem as indicated by your letter dated February 18, it is your bounded duty to ensure a climate conducive to such co-operation is maintained.

The manner in which the Chairman and secretary general of our party were intensely interrogated under the PTA following the bomb attack on the UNP meeting in Ja-ela, was extremely unjustified. It goes against all accepted norms and practices. You have however failed to take any action against Baddegana Sanjeewa of the PSD and PSD chief Nihal Karunaratne for harbouring notorious criminals and attempting to obstruct justice by preventing the arrest of these criminals.

It was amply demonstrated on the day you arrived in parliament to deliver the budget speech in your capacity as finance minister, how, your security division, through their acts, is threatening the very foundations of democracy and political freedom in this country.

We announced our support to you on January 19. Your silence on the matter prompted us to once again to give a reminder on February 10. Your reply came only on February 18. That in itself shows how serious you are in solving a grave national issue. However, you have given us only three days notice to participate in the talks which you have suggested.

Even after this invitation, your newspapers follow a policy of belittling these proposed discussions. I have herewith enclosed a copy of the cartoon which was published in your Dinamina newspaper before even 24 hours had lapsed after your invitation, wherein I have been ridiculed over the proposed talks.

In these circumstances, the best possible course of action open to you is to immediately present in parliament the proposals tabled in October 1997. It would be prudent to fix an early date to discuss the above or our proposals and other relevant matters on a mutually agreed agenda. Hence, we request that you fix a date for such talks open receiving this letter.

Therefore our participation at tomorrow's discussions will not be necessary. On the basis of what has been detailed above, we are prepared to participate at a future discussion.


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