Govt. peace council a non-starter?
By Frances Bulathsinghala
Four major political parties, the UNP, JHU, TNA and the SLMC will not support the government's National Advisory Council for Peace and Reconciliation which gets off the ground tomorrow while the government's latest co-habitator, the CWC, remains undecided about attending the session.

The CWC which earlier declared that it was attending the session yesterday said it was awaiting its leader Arumugan Thondaman's return to the country, to take a decision. The JHU and the SLMC were the latest parties to boycott the Advisory Council sessions due to commence tomorrow.

SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem said yesterday that his party will not take any decision regarding taking part in the Advisory Council until President Chandrika Kumaratunga consents to meet the party members to clarify the UPFA position on the role of the SLMC in the peace process.

The decision by the SLMC was taken after a late night party leaders meeting on Friday, with a letter being sent to President Kumaratunga regarding the SLMC decision yesterday.

The letter requests the President to clarify issues related to the Muslim aspect in talks to be initiated by the UPFA with the LTTE. Referring to the National Advisory Council the letter further states that the President had not made the role of the council in the peace negotiations clear and adds that clarifications are needed on the parameters and composition of the council.

The appointment of the National Advisory Council was seen as the government's latest move to go ahead with the stalled peace process. The Council is being appointed to open wider consultations, the President's office has said.

JHU National Organizer Ven. Kolonnawe Sri Sumangala Thera told The Sunday Times that the JHU position was that it will not be supporting the National Council for Peace and Reconciliation on the basis that anything linked to the Interim Self Governing Authority (ISGA) proposals of the LTTE was unacceptable to his party.

The UNP and TNA reiterated that they believe the government was buying time till the next Presidential Election by setting up the National Advisory Council. TNA General Secretary R. Sampanthan dismissed the move by the government as a waste of time with Prof. Peiris, stating that the main reason for the Opposition to boycott the National Advisory Council is the Government's 'unclear stand' on the LTTE's ISGA.

"No government has ever got the backing from an opposition like this government has got from us. But it is clearly seen that this is a time buying measure taken by the President until the next Presidential election", Prof. G. L. Peiris told The Sunday Times. "The UNP had clearly stated that we would talk to the LTTE based on the ISGA. This did not mean that we would be accepting the ISGA in total. The President has not made a clear statement", he said.

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