Sinhala  Tamil    Seperate    
Governtment of Sri Lanka

Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris addresses the diplomatic community

( Created date: 26-Nov-2003 )

Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris yesterday briefed the diplomatic community on the present political situation in the country.

The Minister cited the stagnation of the Peace Process as the principal issue. He observed that the present standoff is a “profoundly unsatisfactory situation fraught with considerable danger.” “Moving the process forward is of paramount importance and resuming the stalled peace talks is undisputedly the highest priority of the government,” the Minister added.

The Minister explained that the need was for a national consensus rather than a national government. He pointed out the lack of clarity with regard to the Peace Process as the fundamental issue. The point of beginning of solving the issue will be identifying the responsibilities of the three portfolios i.e., The Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Mass Communications as these three are critically linked to the Peace Process.

Explaining the progress made so far in the Peace Process and the talks with the LTTE, he said, “There is a fundamental qualitative difference between the six rounds of talks we have had so far and the nature of the discussions we need to embark upon when the dialogue resumes. Because up to now, we were addressing matters connected with the cessation of violence, the ceasefire agreement, the consolidation of the ceasefire, the extenuation of tension which arose during that period, which had the potential to disturb the ceasefire. Now, when the dialogue resumes, our goal is a lasting, durable and equitable peace, not just the cessation of violence, but the earnest search for a durable, just and equitable peace. It is a substantive matter. Therefore for the next few rounds of talks, it is logical to take the view that there ought to be a reconsideration of the design of the process, how we structure it,” added the minister.

A Memorandum of Understanding would be the next step of the government, the Minister said. What would happen after that should be left open. Several possibilities were cited — the parties will agree to abide by the terms of the contract and work in accordance with the spirit of the agreement. After some time, if the arrangement is found so satisfactory, the parties may wish to broaden the scope of the agreement and contemplate on the formation of a National Government or a Government of Reconstruction and Reconciliation. At the other end of the spectrum, the whole arrangement may fail and the parties may decide to go their separate ways. These are all matters of the future after the MoU is implemented.

The Minister requested all parties to refrain from provocative behaviour. What is not good is to look at the possibility of postponement of elections, said the Minister. Elections should be held at the proper time. There are going to be several elections in the country between the end of February and the end of June 2004. These are the Provincial Council elections. The Wayamba elections have to take place in March. As far as parliamentary elections are concerned, it is our view that it is best avoided if at all possible. An election costs between 600-800 million rupees.

"Already there are indications that the investors are putting things on hold, due to the prevailing uncertainties in the South. An election is not the right thing to go about it. However if it proves impossible to solve the present crisis in a satisfactory manner, the practical alternative is to hold an election. As far as the government is concerned we do not flinch from that prospect at all. We will not precipitate a crisis," noted the Minister.

In conclusion, the Minister sought the assistance of the diplomatic community to do “everything humanely possible” to achieve clarity with regard to the fundamental issues. The minister requested the help of the diplomatic community to sort out the problem with regard to the portfolios, especially the defense portfolio “The greatest problems on the Peace Process had been security-related and security-oriented problems and complexities. The entire security apparatus is outside the control of the Prime Minister and his cabinet. It is quite impossible to carry on a Peace Process to any degree of effectiveness or acceptance. We have to find a solution to this. What the international community is willing to do to promote a viable solution to that problem would be exceedingly useful at this moment because that is the essential precursor to all the other initiatives that are necessary to resolve this problem. The international communities’ effort to solve this issue will be exceedingly useful at this juncture,” requested the Minister.





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