Peace talks should be over ISGA proposals - Mannar Bishop

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 17 August 2004, 02:35 GMT]
“The Interim Self Governing Authority [ISGA] document was only a proposal for discussion as a step towards a viable alternative to separation. The current talk of a counterproposal to be made by the [Sri Lanka] government is not acceptable to the Liberation Tigers, as the LTTE feels this will become an opportunity for the government to bide its time…The government can bring up all its proposals at the discussion table over the ISGA proposals,” said the Bishop of Mannar, Rt.Rev. Rayappu Joseph, when TamilNet interviewed him Monday.

The Bishop met with the LTTE's political leader, Mr. S.P. Thamilchelvan, in the Vanni Sunday, after celebrating the Madhu church festival. TamilNet interviwed him about his meeting with Mr. Thamilchelvan and asked about his own views.

“At the very presentation of this historical [ISGA] document, when the then UNP [United National Party] government was ready to face it, President Kumaratunga took away three important Ministries and eventually dissolved parliament. This situation made the international community perplexed over the future of the political negotiations,” the Bishop observed.

Explaining his meeting with the LTTE political leader, the Bishop said that according to Mr. Thamilchelvan, the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) has been against any negotiations with the LTTE all along. “Mr. Thamilchelvan argued that in spite of [the JVP’s] chauvinistic stance, President Kumaratunga entered into an alliance with them. This has created serious doubts about her commitment to a solution through political negotiations with the LTTE," revealed the Bishop. "Thamilchelvan also noted that they were aware that except for a negligible minority, people in the South are for peace.”

According to the Bishop, Mr.Thamilchelvan expressed the view that the ISGA proposal came out at a time of international expectations when two proposals were made by the UNP Government, and those two proposals lacked in content even the basic thinking of the Tamil people and fell far short of their political aspirations. "The ISGA proposal was positively welcomed by the international community and by the UNP Government as a proposal meant for discussion,” the Bishop quoted Mr. Thamilchelvan as saying.

In his meeting with the Bishop, Thamilchelvan noted President Kumaratunga's conflicting stands and statements, which "even made the Norwegians declare the situation as one of 'no clarity'." The LTTE political leader said that the President should be firm in her position and Norway had now been clearly notified about her conflicting signals.

The senior Catholic religious leader said that he queried Mr. Thamilchelvan on whether it would help the peace process to have, besides the Norwegian facilitation, also groups of a few countries representing the interests of the parties known as "Interest groups,” and Mr.Thamilchelvan responded that the countries of the European Union and Japan are fully cooperating with Norway and the idea of "interest groups" is not something that is needed at the moment. “The LTTE will not be in a position to give such a proposal to the Government knowing well the problems that the Norway itself has been facing in the South." Mr. Thamilchelvan also mentioned, in answer to a question about India's position, that the "LTTE's priority is the aspirations of the Tamil people."

To a query by the Bishop whether the ‘Karuna’ [renegade LTTE commander Vinayagamoorthy Muraleetharan, alias Karuna] factor will affect the peace process, Mr. Thamilchelvan said that it would never be connected to the peace talks as it was a “sacred exercise” to find a peaceful settlement [to the ethnic conflict]. But he also said the LTTE has made it very clear to the Sri Lanka government to stop making use of the renegade, as that would violate article 1.8 of the ceasefire agreement, which prohibits existence of any other armed Tamil groups.

Mr.Thamilchelvan told the Bishop that the political situation in the country was moving towards a dangerous situation and the intervention of Religious and Civic leaders was indispensable and urgent in order to ease such a situation and facilitate the peace process.

External Links:
LTTE Peace Secretariat: Arch Bishop Malcolm Ranjith and Bishops of Jaffna and Mannar on peace mission to Kilinochchi


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