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7th October 2001
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It may not be a negotiating table but these
two children, from the Sinhala and Tamil 
communities, were blissfully at peace with each
other. It was a scene from the bridge-building
events where fifty orphans and fifty widows of 
war from the north and south came together at
the Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium. The 
three-day event was organised by the Ranaviru
Family Counselling Service. Pic by Gemunu Wellage 

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Mirrror Magazine

PA tells UNP: JVP okays peace talks with LTTE

By Our Political Editor
The Government has informed the opposition UNP that its recent pact with the JVP does not preclude it from proceeding towards a negotiated settlement with the LTTE — and that the JVP concurs with this position.

In a letter delivered to the UNP hierarchy on Friday night, a five-member PA delegation which last month held talks with the UNP said they had discussions with the JVP on Wednesday and that the JVP cleared the government proceeding with talks with the LTTE provided, however, that a "broad consensus" was reached by the "south" before reaching any agreement with the LTTE, especially on devolution.

The letter signed by Ministers D. M. Jayaratne, Mahinda Rajapakse, Lakshman Kadirgamar, Anuruddha Ratwatte and Deputy Minister Mangala Samaraweera states that the JVP recognises the north-east conflict as a "national question" and therefore the supremely important question in the domestic politics of Sri Lanka.

The only condition the JVP has placed is that the process must not be rushed or done in haste, the letter suggests.

The UNP had written earlier to the PA saying that the party "will support any agreement arrived at between the Government and the LTTE", but sought clarification on clause 20 of the PA-JVP agreement which it felt precluded the PA from agreeing to bring any proposals for devolution of power for one year as a deal with the LTTE to end the country's 20 year old civil war.

The UNP asked whether clause 20 did not close the door to any negotiated settlement with the LTTE and whether the PA had "tied its hands" to giving substance and effect to the outcome of the talks until September 2002.

The PA is still pursuing a policy of drawing in the UNP towards making a joint statement indicating a common approach from the "south" towards the insurgency in the "north".

A draft joint statement previously discussed but not signed by the UNP refers to three areas:

* the need to alleviate hardships and dangers to civilians affected by the on-going conflict;

* a "mutually agreed temporary halt to offensive military operations with immediate effect;

* Start talks with the LTTE at the earliest.

The UNP has reiterated that its leadership has repeatedly stated, publicly, that the party is of the view that a negotiated settlement should be arrived at with the LTTE, and talks with the LTTE should begin early with this objective.

But the UNP appears to be disinclined in issuing a joint statement with the PA Government though both parties are taking a somewhat common approach to this "national question".

The JVP, which the PA says has agreed to starting talks with the LTTE — provided a "broad consensus" is reached before any agreement is entered into with the LTTE — is on record saying at one stage that peace talks with the LTTE must be suspended till the independent commissions have been implemented.

The JVP also at one stage said that a probationary government had no right to agree to anything with the LTTE.

JVP parliamentarian Anura Dissanayake who took part in Wednesday's talks reacted to the PA-UNP correspondence quoting the JVP. 

He said the party had reiterated its stand on the starting of peace talks and insisted the Government should reach a consensus with all sections of society before anything was presented to parliament.

"The Government can start peace talks. We will object if the Government does something the JVP is against, but this will not affect the MoU," he said.

He, however, reiterated the JVP's opposition to the devolution of power.

No-faith motion likely on Thursday

By Dilruskhi Handuneetti
The Government intends taking up the vote on the UNP sponsored no-confidence motion next Thursday, October 11, a day astrologically good for its leader President Chandrika Kumaratunga, The Sunday Times learns.

The motion which reads, "This House declares that it has no confidence in the Government since it is demonstrably clear that it cannot solve the pressing problems of the country and its people" is likely to be taken up on that day.

The previous date, Wednesday, October 10 is also a good date for the People's Alliance leadership, but Thursday is better, it is learnt.

Both sides seemed confident that they could muster the necessary numbers — 113 out of a 225 seat Parliament — to win the vote. On the face of it, the ruling PA has 109 seats and its new ally the JVP has 10 seats totalling 119, what would seem a comfortable win for the Government.

However, it is public knowledge that some members of the ruling coalition have been openly critical of the President and her administration and would vote with the opposition.

So far the Tamil United Liberation Front (5 seats), the Tamil Eelam Liberation Organisation (3 seats) and the All Ceylon Tamil Congress (one seat) have publicly stated that they would support the UNP (89 seats minus the Speaker) motion.

The Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (7 seats) has stated that it will decide on which way to vote after the debate. The solitary member from the Sihala Urumaya is currently overseas.

UNP and Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, one of the signatories to the no-confidence motion, told The Sunday Times that the date for the debate would be discussed at the party leader's meeting on tomorrow or on Tuesday along with the Speaker, but that his party was prepared to take the vote either on Tuesday or in the third week of October. Leader of the House and Minister Richard Pathirana said the PA was "strong" and was prepared for an early debate to the no-confidence motion.

Imbroglio in Con. Council

The proposed Constitutional Council appears to have run into crisis even before its appointment amidst rumbling and grumbling by various parties and parties within parties.

According to the PA-JVP memorandum of understanding, the deadline for the setting up of the Constitutions Council was October 5 but as Friday passed consensus had been reached only on the appointment of the Muslim community's nominee — former Supreme Court judge M. Jameel.

On Thursday, parties other than the PA and the UNP had reached consensus on a nominee — Legal Aid Foundation Chairman and UNHCR legal consultant S. S. Wijeratne. But after his nomination was accepted by the Speaker, both the Sihala Urumaya and the UNP fired out objections claiming Mr. Wijeratne was closely associated with the SLFP and the Bandaranaike family. 

According to the 17th Amendment, the persons nominated must be impartial without connections to any political party. 

On this basis the nomination of former Auditor General Gamini Epa was withdrawn as he was a national list nominee of the Puravesi Peramuna at last year's elections.

The consensus on Mr. Jameel was reached at a meeting of all Muslim leaders including A. H. M. Fowzie, Ferial Ashraff, Alavi Moulana, Rauf Hakeem and M. H. Mohamed. 

Political sources said Mr. Fowzie had proposed a former civil servant and Mr. Hakeem a lawyer, but they eventually agreed on the former judge.

It was completely different when the Tamil parties met. Even the TULF, TELO and the ACTC which have stuck together during the past few weeks of political turmoil could not agree on a consensus nominee while the EPDP slammed all three for walking out on the 17th Amendment but now wanting a place in the council. However, at talks yesterday, the TULF, TELO and the ACTC narrowed differences and agreed on three nominees from whom one will be selected. 

They are Prof. K. Sivathambi. T. Sunderalingam and Devanesan Nesiah.

An EPDP spokesman said they hoped to reach a compromise with other Tamil parties tomorrow.

As for the nominee of the plantations community, there was still further division with the CWC proposing one candidate and the breakaway groups led by P. P. Devaraj and M. S. Sellasamy proposing others. 

Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake and opposition UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe who are coordinating the process of nominations, have asked the minority parties to reach a consensus and come up with a decision by Tuesday.

Under the 17th Amendment, the Prime Minister, the Speaker, the opposition leader are ex-officio members of the Constitutional Council. Five members are to be nominated jointly by the premier and the opposition leader, three of who will be from minority communities. 

The President will nominate one member and the other nominated by parties other than the PA and the UNP. Among the names being mentioned from PA and UNP quarters are: D.M.P.B. Dassanyake, Andrew Silva, Dr. Jayadeva Uyangoda, Kusumsiri Balapatabendi, Bradmon Weerakoon and K.H.J. Wijeyadasa, Austin Fernando and Justice K.M.P.B. Kulatunge. 

US reimposes ban on LTTE

The US Secretary of state Colin Powell redesignating 25 terrorist organisation including the LTTE has declared that he hoped foreign government across the world would isolate these terrorist organisations, choke off their sources of financial support and prevent their movement across international borders.

Mr. Powell making a statement after redesignating the terrorist organisations said he hoped the list would draw the attention of foreign governments across the world to these groups and would encourage action against them.

He said the redesignation of terrorist organisations and measures against these terrorist groups would continue in accordance with provisions of the Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act.

Mr. Powell said the decision to redesignate these groups had been taken in consultation with the Attorney General and the Treasury Secretary after an exhaustive review of these groups' violent activities over the two years.

"Most of these groups such as Hamas, the Palestine Islamic Jihad, the Tamil Tigers, the FARC in Colombia, Basque ETA, and of course Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda organisation have carried out murderous attacks on innocent people since their last designation in 1999," he said.

Two groups — the Japanese Red Army and the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement in Peru —were removed from the list because there was no significant activity, Mr. Powell said. "This decision does not condone or excuse the past terrorism carried out by these groups, nor does it suggest that we now consider these groups to be legitimate," he said.

Two groups previously designated terrorist groups — Kahane Chai and Kach — were combined into one and redesignated Kahane Chai, the report said.

Windfall from the woods

An ex-minister is reported to have moved into a Colombo residence — it has been purchased for and on his behalf for a cool Rs. 32 million.

The ex-minister remains a member of Parliament of the PA, but is critical of the administration, especially for what he sees as its subservience to the Marxist-nationalist JVP in a probationary government.

There are conflicting reports as to who actually paid the money for the plush house owned by a well-known Colombo resident. One is that it is a "good friend of recent acquaintance", the other is that his brother living in a western capital purchased it for him.

The former minister was de-housed after he lost his portfolio last month, though many of his one-time colleagues who lost their portfolios remain in the same state bungalows they occupied because they eat humble-pie and support the PA-JVP MoU.

The owner of the house had to sell the premises as the finance company to which it was mortgaged was breathing down his neck.

He had to part with a grand dining table in the house as well, though that was not part of the sale agreement because the ex-minister was breathing down his neck.

Ronnie praises JR's cabinet ethos

Trade and Industrial Development Minister Ronnie de Mel has said the cabinet should work efficiently like the 1977-88 cabinet of President J.R. Jayewardene.

Mr. de Mel, a long time finance minister in the Jayewardene government, told a meeting with the business community on Thursday that most of the problems in the country affecting the economy could be resolved if the cabinet worked with the same efficiency of the Jayewardene government.

He pointed out that President Jayewardene came 15 minutes ahead of the cabinet meeting and therefore no minister dared come late.

He said more time was spent on discussing important national issues, sometime for four hours, before taking routine matters such as transfers and appointments.

Mr. de Mel said that if you could get the same system in operation like during the Jayewardene's government and get the President and senior officials involved in the process, matters could be attended to faster.

Mahanayake bangs Maligawa door on DIG

By Shane Seneviratne
The Malwatte Mahanayake has declared the Dalada Maligawa out of bounds for the Central Province Police Chief after the officer allegedly demanded the key to a section of the hallowed shrine.

The order from the Ven Rambukwelle Vipassi Mahanayake Thera was given after Deputy Inspector General Mahinda Balasuriya reportedly demanded the key to a particular section on the basis he had to make special security arrangements for the visit of Minister Anuruddha Ratwatte.

The Mahanayake had later summoned the DIG to his chamber and told the police officer that the temple would be out of bounds for him until the special exposition of the Sacred Tooth Relic ended today. 

The Mahanayake had earlier also condemned an incident where two Tamil boys who accompanied a Sinhala businessmen to the Maligawa were allegedly beaten up and arrested by the police. This incident also took place just before Gen. Ratwatte's visit to the Maligawa.

Several devotees also had reportedly complained to the Mahanayake about alleged harassment by police and the prelate had asked for action on those complaints also.

JVP frowns on new jobs

By Shelani de Silva
The JVP has reiterated its objection to the Government's proposal to appoint ex-ministers and deputies to supervise the work of ministries.

After the JVP voiced its objections at a meeting, government leaders assured that MPs appointed to the supervisory committees would not be entitled to privileges of a cabinet minister or a deputy minister, but they would get a vehicle and small fuel allowance.

Meanwhile, several MPs were reported to be awaiting such appointments despite objections by the JVP.


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