Talks should be based on concrete proposals – Balasingham
[TamilNet, Saturday, 07 June 2003, 06:45 GMT]
Negotiations on an Interim Administration for the Northeast could only begin once the Sri Lankan government had produced a detailed draft of its proposals for such a body, the Liberation Tigers said Friday. Discussions could only proceed usefully on the basis of “specific and concrete” proposals from Colombo, the LTTE’s Chief Negotiator and Political Advisor, Mr. Anton Balasingham, told TamilNet when asked about press reports suggesting the government had agreed to the establishment of an Interim Administration.
Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe, whose government had recently rejected the LTTE’s proposals for an Interim Administration, saying such a body was not possible under the Sri Lankan Constitution, said Friday that ways may be found to get around that if the Tigers agree to meet with his government.
"As far as the government is concerned, certainly we are looking at an appropriate interim administrative structure,” Wickremesinghe told Reuters.
“But it is an issue which has to be discussed, I don't think just by exchanging letters or notes we will be able to come to a conclusion,” he further said.
However, when asked about Mr. Wickremesinghe’s comments, Mr. Balasingham responded that “statements of mere intent are no basis for negotiations.”
“We have already discussed the concept [of an Interim Administration] a long time ago. What is needed now are specific and concrete proposals that set out the details,” Mr. Balasingham said.
“As I said in my letter [sent Wednesday] to Mr. Wickremesinghe, we can only speculate as to how many rounds of negotiations the parties have to undergo to arrive at a final formulation of a new bureaucratic institution,” Mr. Balasingham said.
In April the Liberation Tigers suspended their participation in the Norwegian-brokered negotiations with the Sri Lankan government, protesting, amongst other matters, the Colombo’s failure to honour long standing pledges on resettlement of refugees and internally displaced people.
The LTTE has since called for “an innovative new structure with specified politico-administrative functions, vested with adequate authority and legal status and with wider participation of the LTTE,” to ensure the speedy resettlement of up to a million people.
However the Sri Lankan government avoided the issue of an Interim Administration in its response which instead outlined Colombo’s counterproposals for a much weaker development council. Meanwhile, Mr. Wickremesinghe and other senior Sri Lankan ministers have told reporters their government was only prepared to work within the limits of the Sri Lankan Constitution.
But on Friday the Premier, who is now in Tokyo ahead of a major international donor conference next week, told Reuters his government was prepared to work around the constitution’s restrictions, provided the Tigers resume negotiations with it.
"From what I can see the differences [between both sides] are not that large," Mr. Wickremesinghe added.
But Mr. Balasingham felt “we seriously differ in perception in connection with what the LTTE leadership proposes and what [the Sri Lankan] government offers.”
In his latest letter to Mr. Wickremesinghe, Mr. Balasingham said that “while the LTTE is seeking an Interim Administrative framework as pledged by you in the elections and for which you received a mandate from the people, your government is proposing a development structure with limited scope and power in which the role of the LTTE is not yet clearly defined and subjected to further discussion and clarification.”
Speaking to TamilNet Friday, Mr. Balasingham said future negotiations with the Sri Lankan government would have to be conducted on the basis of a “new and redefined agenda.”
Mr. Balasingham’s letter to Mr. Wickremesinghe said the Tigers “felt that the negotiating process has moved in the direction of exploring theoretical models and road-maps towards a permanent solution ignoring the harsh existential ground realities of a suffering population who yearn to experience a sense of peace, normalcy and decent life.”
As a result, the Tamil people are losing confidence and patience in the peace process in resolving urgent humanitarian issues, he said.