|Tuesday, 21 October 2003|
by Ranga Jayasuriya
In a dramatic shift from its previous stance, the LTTE yesterday said it was ready to resume peace talks anytime, even before the Government reviews the movement's counter proposals.
"We are ready to attend the peace talks anytime, and will join the talks even if the government invites us before reviewing our proposals," Tigers' Eastern military chief "colonel" Karuna was quoted as saying.
Karuna's pronouncement is in total contrast to the Tigers' earlier position, when the movement kept on demanding the finalisation of the Interim administration as a prerequisite to resume peace talks.
The Tigers earlier put down two government proposals claiming they had not offered enough powers to the proposed North-East interim set up.
The change in the LTTE's stance came in the wake of the reports of a possible preliminary meeting between the Government and the LTTE.
The Norwegian facilitators are planning the meeting, which will be the first face-to-face high level negotiations since the Tigers walked away from talks in the mid April.
Cabinet Spokesman Prof. G.L. Peiris told last week's Cabinet press briefing that the proposed preliminary meeting is aimed at deciding the time frame of the interim administration and the format of the future rounds of peace talks including the participation of a Muslim delegation.
However, speculation is rife that differences between the LTTE demands and the powers offered under the Government's original proposals for a Provisional Administrative council for the North East will be a 'priority concern' in any preliminary meeting.
Karuna, a hardliner in the LTTE ranks also warned that refusal of the Tigers proposals will bring the Government a "severe international displeasure".
Meanwhile, the Tigers' clandestine radio, the Voice of Tigers yesterday said the LTTE will submit its counterproposals to the Government on October 31 while Karuna, the co-leader of the Tiger political team involved in working out the movement's counter proposals, was quoted as saying the Tigers will submit proposals on October 26.
Earlier Thamilselvam said the Tigers in their counterproposals had focused on the conflict resolution process in various parts of the world and emphasised on the interim arrangements suited to the Sri Lankan context.
"We paid attention to the conflict resolution process in various parts of the world with special emphasis on the interim arrangements that were put in place prior to a final solution of the conflict in the Sri Lankan context and the ceasefire," Thamilselvam was quoted telling the Norwegian Foreign Minister Jan Petersen.
The LTTE political team last Saturday returned from a two-week European tour aimed at exploring Scandinavian federal structures.
The Tiger team met their constitutional experts in the Irish Capital where they reviewed the movement's counter proposals worked out at an earlier meeting in Paris.
The team then travelled to Denmark and Norway, where they briefed the Norwegian facilitators on the counter-proposals.
The recent developments follow extensive diplomacy in Colombo and Oslo by a number of key foreign figures. Canadian Foreign Minister Bill Graham who visited Sri Lanka last week urged the LTTE to make reasonable power-sharing proposals which will resume the stalled peace talks.
"I believe the LTTE should put forward reasonable proposals at the end of this month," he told the reporters.
In Oslo, special envoy Erik Solheim who met the LTTE political team was quoted saying the Sri Lankan peace process is slowly but surely heading in the right direction.
Produced by Lake House