B. Muralidhar Reddy

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa has requested All-Party Representative Committee (APRC) Chairman and Minister Tissa Vitharana to submit the much-awaited final draft for a “political solution” to the ethnic conflict in the island nation by January 23.

The APRC was constituted by Mr. Rajapaksa in mid-2006 to advice him on a political package for power-sharing. The main opposition party, United National Party (UNP) and the Janatha Vimukthi Permuna have quit the APRC for different reasons. The pro-LTTE Tamil National Alliance (TNA) was not invited to be part of the committee.

Mr. Rajapaksa’s decision to ask the APRC to give him the final draft came amid heavy fighting between government forces and the LTTE and a week after the government chose to withdraw from the 2002 Cease Fire Agreement.

A statement by the Presidential Secretariat said here on Thursday that Mr. Rajapaksa on Wednesday night summoned party leaders and APRC members to discuss matters relating to an acceptable solution to the ethnic conflict.

The APRC Chairman told The Hindu that the committee is agreed on “most of the proposals” in the draft he had submitted over a year ago. “The proposals so far agreed amount to an improvement on the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. Only two controversial issues remain to be sorted out. I intend to seek support of both the UNP and JVP to the proposals once they are finalised”.

LTTE’s plea

Separately, breaking its silence on the decision of the government to abrogate the CFA, the LTTE said even at this juncture, it is ready to implement every clause of the CFA agreement and respect it 100 per cent. “We also request that Norway should continue with its facilitation role with the support of the international community.”

The LTTE made known its position through a written statement when the SLMM Head of Mission, Lars Johan Solveberg, met the LTTE’s political head, B. Nadeson, in Kilinochchi on Thursday as part of the SLMM winding-up operation. The Tigers said that a similar signed statement was also sent to the Norwegian Foreign Ministry through the SLMM’s head of mission.

Amid claims by the military that at least 17 LTTE cadres were killed in pitched battles along the Forward Defence Lines (FDLs) in the north, the Tigers expressed “shock and disappointment” over the decision to abrogate the CFA and appealed to the international community to recognise the “just struggle of the Tamil nation.”

The statement said the CFA had the necessary clauses, to remove the military zones declared by the military, facilitate the resettlement of the Tamil people in their land, reopen the A9 Jaffna-Kandy and the Chenkaladi-Badulla highways, vacate the schools and places of worship that are occupied by the military and remove all fishing restrictions.