|Monday, 24 February 2003|
Slow and steady path to peace - PM
Sri Lanka is seeking international pressure to end three decades of ethnic bloodshed, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said as he marked a full year of a Norwegian-brokered truce Sunday.
Prime Minister Wickremesinghe said he expected better compliance with foreign pressure on the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) as well as the administration. "Now it is the international community that is putting pressure on the LTTE," Wickremesinghe said in an interview on Rupavahini on Saturday night.
He said the Tigers were being subjected to intense foreign scrutiny as the international community got more engaged in supporting the island's Norwegian-backed peace bid with financial and political aid.
Both the government and the LTTE expect millions of dollars from a major aid pledging conference organised by Japan in a bid to drum up foreign cash to help rebuild the war-ravaged nation. "When we go to Tokyo for the aid group meet, the Tigers will also have to show progress in honouring the ceasefire," Wickremesinghe said, adding that child recruitment by the LTTE remained a problem.
The LTTE during the latest round of talks with the government earlier this month in Berlin pledged not to recruit underage combatants, but reports from the North-East suggested the practice was continuing.
The Prime Minister said he envisioned a final political settlement in which Sri Lanka would have one police force, one judicial system and one military in which Tiger members too would be included.
He noted that both sides have agreed to a political framework to end the bloodshed. During their December talks in Oslo, the government and the LTTE said they will work towards a federal system to politically end the violence. "My feeling is that we can move forward," Wickremesinghe said, rejecting criticism that his government had been giving too much to the LTTE. "We must move slowly and steadily. If our people yearn for peace we owe it to them."
He said a final settlement to the conflict will go before the people for approval at a referendum, but he was also confident that the cohabitation arrangement in government would not be a hindrance.Wickremesinghe played down differences with Kumaratunga and said the President was also committed to a negotiated settlement to the conflict.
Official figures show four rebels and two troopers were killed during the truce period as a result of clashes - compared with 2,000 people losing their lives as a direct result of fighting in the corresponding period a year earlier. (AFP)
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