Negotiators to study ethnic conflict resolution models

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 05 November 2002, 22:07 GMT]
(News Feature) In a major step forward in the Norwegian peace process, both the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers said Sunday they are to begin exploring longer term solutions to the island's protracted ethnic conflict. In another surprise announcement at the press conference Sunday which concluded the second round of direct talks between the two sides, the chief negotiators of both sides said they would be examining ethnic conflict resolution efforts from around the world.

The Liberation Tigers' chief negotiator, Mr. Anton Balasingham said the movement was considered "a federal or confederal" model as a possible solution.

Reading from a prepared statement, Norwegian Deputy Foreign Minister Vidar Helgesen announced: "In the quest for a final settlement, a broad range of issues must be addressed with considerable attention to detail."

"The parties agreed to establish a Sub-Committee to commence work in connection with relevant political matters. The parties agreed that access to expertise on political matters will be important in order for them to enter into negotiations on issues central to the peace process," he said further.

The sub-committee will be headed by Mr. Balasingham and the Sri Lankan government chief negotiator, Prof. G. L Peiris - who is also Constitutional Affairs Minister.

Acknowledging that the LTTE had insisted on an interim administrative set up for the Tamil areas, Mr. Balasingham told the press conference "at the same time we are also concerned with taking up core issues as early as possible."

"We have appointed a political affairs committee whose objective is to explore various models and systems of government. We need to seek the advice of international experts and resource persons on how various governments at various times have resolved ethnic conflicts - temporarily, as well as permanently," he said.

"We have to study those aspects and we have to spend quite a lot of time in exploring these aspects and making visits to different countries and consulting and interacting with scholars and we working on the core issues."

"We will not be bogged down to any particular set of framework as such. So once this sub committee on rehabilitation is established, we will straightway enter into a process of engaging ourselves with core issues," he added.

"It does not mean that we are going to abandon the idea of an interim set up. If we feel that an interim set up is crucial, then we will definitely look into that framework," Mr. Balasingham said.

Following on, Prof. G. L Peiris said: "I think there is nothing sacred about any particular model. The first thing is to deal with the humanitarian and development oriented issues."

"Then as we proceed to address the political and constitutional issues, as Mr. Balasingham said, there is no need to feel constricted and tied down to any particular model," Mr. Peiris said.

"It all depends on the circumstances. We can borrow from different systems, we can contemplate a combination of elements drawn from different models and, as we engage in that task, we may or may not work through an interim arrangement," he said.

"If we think that an interim arrangement is going help us in our ultimate objectives, certainly then we will make use of that mechanism, drawing from the experience of other countries," Mr. Peiris said.

"But there are other situations where it has been possible to plunge directly into elements of the final solution. If we feel able to do that without any impediments, there is no reason we why should not consider that modality," he said.

"So there is flexibility with regards to the modalities for achieving our objectives. Our objectives are clear. In order to make final decisions with regards to this matter we will engage in the kind of research and reflection that we both believe to be necessary to resolve this matter at the political level," Mr. Peiris said.

Asked what models the LTTE was looking at, Mr. Balasingham said: "We will be looking at systems and models of self government particularly confined to the theoretical discourse of self-determination - internal self-determination.

"We will focus our attention on how ethnic conflicts have been resolved by accommodating the problems of national minorities in certain systems of government," he said.

"So we will be particularly looking at federal and confederal models. Further than that I do not want to discuss the matter at this stage," he said.

Prof. Peiris said: "I think we should not be slaves to labels. We will not work in terms of compartments or strait jackets. We will look at models that can give us guidance in resolving these difficult issues."

"We will look at this whole range of solutions which have worked out in different countries, always adapting those solutions to suit the special circumstances of our own country. We must have the creativity and the elasticity to do that," he said.

"At the same time we believe that we don't need to reinvent the wheel. We can derive considerable profit and advantage from the experience of others. That is the spirit in which we propose to approach the work of the political sub-committee," he said.


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