UNP wants to know, Chandrika says opportunism
[TamilNet, Thursday, 15 February 2001, 17:22 GMT]
Sri Lanka’s main opposition party said Thursday that the government should keep it informed of the Norway mediated effort to begin negotiations with the Liberation Tigers. Addressing a press conference in Colombo this afternoon, Mr. Karu Jayasuriya, Deputy Leader of the United National Party (UNP) said that the government was bound to do so under a bilateral agreement brokered by the British in 1997. During a phone in program Thursday evening on a state run TV channel, the Sri Lankan President dismissed the UNP’s claim, pointing out that the opposition leader did not abide by the terms of the agreement in the past unless it suited him.
The UNP’s Deputy leader said that the government does not reveal to the public and the opposition the state of the peace initiative even as much as Norway does.
An agreement between the UNP and the Sri Lankan government was negotiated by Mr. Liam Fox who was the British state minister for foreign affairs in 1997.
Both parties agreed to keep each other informed of any initiatives or effort on each one’s part to resolve the ethnic conflict. This is now known as the Liam Fox agreement.
It was forged on the basis that the main obstacle to peace in Sri Lanka is the endemic inability of the party in the government and the party in the opposition to see eye to eye on any program to settle the ethnic conflict, with one opposing the other’s efforts to bring about a settlement with the Tamils when one is in the opposition and vice versa.
Meanwhile, in her TV interview, the Sri Lankan President reiterated her defence establishment’s conviction that the Liberation Tigers are willing to negotiate at this juncture because they are militarily weak. However, she devoted a fair measure of her time on the air to lambaste the UNP and what she portrayed as it misdeeds during its rule.
Mr. Karu Jayasuriya said that his party would not permit the government to postpone elections to the local government bodies for one year as announced. He said that the People’s Alliance (PA) had accused the UNP of doing the same when it (PA) was in the opposition.