|Wednesday, 7 January 2004|
|Security||Today's Top Story|
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is expected to announce at a public rally at Panduwasnuwara today his intention to withdraw from the Ceasefire Agreement that he signed with the LTTE on behalf of the Government of Sri Lanka on February 22, 2002, if the President does not hand back the Ministries of Defence, Interior and Mass Communictions she took over on November 4-5, 2003, reliable Government sources told the Daily News last evening.
Following the take over of the ministries, the President and the Prime Minister had several rounds of talks to resolve the conflict. During the talks President reiterated her stand that she is bound by the Constitution as well as by the Supreme Court determination on her powers that Defence is a subject vested in her as Head of State and hence, it cannot be alienated. The Prime Minister, on the other hand, took up the position that he needs the ministries to carry on the peace process.
A committee of officials headed by Mano Tittawela, CEO at the President's Office and Bradman Weerakoon, Secretary to the prime Minister appointed by both leaders was deliberating for the last two months to arrive at a compromise on the issues of contention between the two leaders.
It should be recalled here that the President offered the formation of a Government of National Rehabilitation and Reconciliation (GNRR) as a compromise. Since she did not get a positive response to it from the Prime Minister, she then proposed a national consensus on core issues including the peace process, infrastructure development, education and the strengthening of democratic institutions.
On the question of Defence, the President made several proposals including the formation of a Ministry of National Security, as was the practice under President Premadasa and the sharing of Defence responsibilities between the President and the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister rejected all these proposals this was in spite of repeated calls by the civil society including the Maha Sangha, the professionals and the Business Community for the two leaders to arrive at a consensus.
According to the Ceasefire Agreement, either party has to inform the Royal Norwegian Government of its intention to withdraw from the Agreement giving it a minimum of two week's notice. The Prime Minister's public announcement, therefore, would be taken as a warning or a threat directed at the President, rather than a formal notice of withdrawal.
Withdrawal of one party from the Agreement relieves the other party of its obligations to observe the ceasefire. Thus, a withdrawal by the Government would relieve the LTTE of its obligations under the Ceasefire Agreement.
The ceasefire has stood for nearly two years, including two months after the Presidential take over of the three ministries without any major hiccups.
Hence, the peace process was not defunct though actual talks between the government and the LTTE did not take place since April 2002 when the LTTE withdrew from it in protest against sidelining it at the Washington Donor Conference and the slow implementation of decisions taken at the earlier talks.
The LTTE, however, presented its proposals for an interim self-governing authority to the government. The government is yet to respond to them. The latter is also a reason for the peace talks to be stalled.
Produced by Lake House