ASIA/SRI LANKA - Efforts to resume negotiations to restore peace: priorities of new government

Tuesday, 25 May 2004

Colombo (Fides Service) - Eliminate the barriers preventing negotiations between government and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels is the aim of mediation by Norway resumed recently after the installation of the new Sri Lankan government in Colombo. Norway’s representative Erik Solheim had a meeting with Sri Lanka’s president Chandrika Kumaratunga and the political Tamil leader S. P. Thamilselvan to try resume talks officially suspended in April on the occasion of the general elections, but frozen for more than 12 months.
According to observers the parties are willing to resume talks with regard selfrule for the north east Tamil regions of the Island. On taking office Premier Mahinda Rajapakse said a major priority was to resume peace talks with Tamil separatists.
“We hope the peace process will go ahead and this is a responsibility for the new government. We wish an era of peace, freedom and prosperity for Sri Lanka and all its citizens, Sinhalese and Tamils”, Archbishop Oswald Gomis, Archbishop of Colombo, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Sri Lanka, told Fides
Talks have been at a standstill for some months after the LTTE presented a global plan to solve the conflict which included an interim administration in the north and the east with power to impose taxes, maintain order, control outgoing trade, in the framework of a federal system.
President Kumaratunga was unwilling to change the constitutional organisation of the state. Colombo agreed to give Tamils decision-making power with regards to re-construction and re-settling of displaced persons but not with regard to control of politics and security. Civil was in Sri Lanka has lasted twenty years and caused the death of about 65,000 people.
(PA) (Agenzia Fides 25/5/2004 lines 28 words 285)