Former Prime Minister, Ratnasiri Wickremenayake, has resigned as leader of the government delegation holding talks on “power devolution” with the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) after the latter’s endorsement of the United Nations Panel report on alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka.
In his letter to President Mahinda Rajapaksa this week, Senior Minister Wickremenayake has said he could not negotiate with the TNA after it had supported allegations that Sri Lankan troops committed war crimes allegedly during the final stages of the separatist war in May 2009.
Parliamentarian Rajiva Wijesinha, former head of the Government’s Peace Secretariat, has been named as a replacement for Mr. Wickremenayake. Other members in the government team are External Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris, Irrigation and Water Resources Management Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva and Sajin Vaas Gunawardena, MP who is overlooking the Ministry of External Affairs.
In a statement issued after the release of the UN Panel’s report, the TNA leader R. Sampanthan said, “the Panel has also found credible allegations associated with the final stages of the war and that the Sri Lankan Army’s military campaign into the Vanni using large scale and widespread shelling caused large numbers of civilian deaths.
The Panel states that the campaign constituted persecution of the population of the Vanni, of around 300,000 civilians. The Government’s estimate of the population in the Vanni at this time was only 70,000. The Panel also asserts that these credibly alleged violations demand a serious investigation and the prosecution of those responsible.”
When a TNA delegation met the government delegation on Friday, the issues arising from the TNA statement led to a heated debate. TNA members were forced to say that they had made those remarks in Parliament on different occasions before the statement was issued.