'Take control of peace process or return ministries' - UNF

[TamilNet, Monday, 10 November 2003, 14:39 GMT]
The United National Front government spokesman and Constitutional Affairs Minister, Professor G.L.Peiris, Monday said in a statement that if Sri Lanka’s President was not willing to assume control of the peace process, the UNF government must be “invested with responsibility for all aspects of the process, as was the case prior to the events of November 4th.”

The Cabinet met Monday morning with the Prime Minister in the chair. Later, the Cabinet spokesman released a statement to the press.

The full text of the statement by Mr.Peiris follows:

Ministers of the Cabinet noted with deep concern the developments, which have occurred in the country since Tuesday 4 November, and the implications of these events in respect of the two major challenges confronting the country at the present time--peace process and the revival of the economy.

The Memorandum of Understanding with regard to the peace process was entered into by the Government in February 2002 on the basis of unfettered control of all ministries and institutions linked to the implementation of the Agreement which the Ministers emphatically characterized as valid and lawful, and accepted by the international community.

The position has changed fundamentally in consequence of the events, which occurred during the last few days regarding the Ministries of Defense, the Interior and Mass Communication.

Ministers of the Cabinet noted, in particular, that these developments have taken place at a delicate and significant stage of the process when the alternative proposals of the LTTE had been received and the Government had called upon the Royal Norwegian Government, in its capacity as facilitator, to arrange a preliminary meeting between the parties in order to lay a foundation for the resumption of substantive discussions.

This action was taken on the basis that the way forward consisted of direct talks to narrow down the differences between the position of the parties, as reflected in their respective proposals, and to consolidate a process which has saved innumerable lives and brought substantial economic and social benefits to the country. The LTTE had indicated their willingness to recommence the dialogue after 26 Th November. The Government has stated its position that a Muslim delegation should participate in talks in the future.

It is in these circumstances that, during the absence of the Hon. Prime Minister on an official visit to Washington, there occurred this surprising sequence of events, which is bound to place a fragile process in potential jeopardy.

The government is firmly convinced that, as a pre-requisite of success, one person must have overall charge of the process. This necessarily involves control of all aspects of it, and of institutions having responsibility for all matters integral to the process.

Ministers of the Cabinet assert that truncated responsibility, especially against the background of the recent events, will clearly destroy the cohesion and effectiveness of the process which had been conducted until November 4 on the footing of proper co-ordination of all relevant functions under the leadership of the Hon. Prime Minister.

If her Excellency the President is willing to assume control of the process, as a whole, and is able to secure the support of all stakeholders, the Government will be happy and entrust her with this responsibility and to support her initiative.

If there is no affirmative response to this proposal, the Government, which has an unequivocal mandate from the people to pursue a negotiated political settlement with the LTTE, must be invested with responsibility for all aspects of the process, as was the case prior to the events of November 4.

Centrally linked to the emergence of a viable and principled solution to the current crisis, in the opinion of Ministers of the Cabinet, is the uninterrupted functioning of democratic institutions. This dimension of international support for the peace process received explicit articulation in Paragraph 16 of the Tokyo Declaration of 10th June 2003.

In the light of the reality that Parliament has ultimate responsibility for guidance and superintendence of the peace process, the prorogation of parliament, entailing as it does the prevention of discussion and debate by the representatives of the sovereign people at a time when Parliament’s functions are more crucial than ever, singularly unfortunate.

Moreover, the manner in which the State media has been used during the last few days is manifestly detrimental to the peace process. This included calculated dissemination of falsehood, for example, the allegation relating of 6 ships bringing in arms, which has been refuted by he former Defense Minister.

Finally, Ministers of the cabinet wish to express their conviction that, since proposals pertaining to cohabitation have as their basic objective the protection and promotion of the peace process, fundamental issues in respect of responsibility for the process, must be resolved at the threshold before other issues are addressed. If this is not done, the stability and continuity of the process could be gravely imperiled.


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