TNA: will soon take a call on talks

December 22, 2011 10:46 pm | Updated 10:46 pm IST - COLOMBO:

The talks between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), an umbrella group of Tamil political parties representing the Northern Tamils, is headed for another trough, with both sides levelling a series of allegations against the other.

It began soon after the TNA expressed its views on the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission on Monday. The TNA said the LLRC report “categorically fails to effectively and meaningfully deal with issues of accountability” and called for the establishment of an international mechanism for accountability.

This call has agitated ruling party politicians in Sri Lanka. At a meeting with Editors of Sri Lankan media on Tuesday, President Mahinda Rajapaksa said the TNA was behaving like the LTTE did during previous peace talks. “They are proving to be as difficult as the LTTE in talks, adopting the same negative tactics,” said the President, according to the pro-government Daily News . “They yet have a war mentality, this is getting in the way when talking to the government. They must get out of this, which is entirely shaped by the past,” he added.

“The President went on to say that the TNA is getting instructions from abroad and this was a considerable obstacle when it came to conducting fruitful negotiations with the government. He also noted that an outstanding demand of the TNA for police powers to the North and East is not a practicable proposition,” the newspaper added.

This is the first time in the recent past that the President has attacked the TNA. Taking a cue from the top executive authority, External Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris, also the government's pointsman in the talks, followed suit. “The TNA is the only party to do so [to ask for an international accountability mechanism] and it should be evident that this could pave way for international interference in Sri Lanka's issues… That the TNA is calling for an international probe is a matter for profound regret” he added.

The TNA, which has historically not known when to back off, has said it would soon take “a decisive step” on continuing the talks. Spokesperson Suresh Premachandiran was quotedas saying it was pointless to talk with the government that cannot understand that the TNA was not asking for the separate state. He was reacting to the assertion of the President that land and police powers would not be granted to the provinces.

The talks are aimed at finding a political solution to the Tamil question that accommodates the hopes and aspirations of the minority community. Last August, the TNA walked out of the talks, saying the government had not responded to a list of issues that it had raised, and that the government was merely buying time by keeping TNA tied to the negotiating table.It required a lot of effort on the part of a few interested parties to re-start that dialogue. With literally no progress since the time the TNA returned to the negotiating table, the Alliance says the patience of people of the North was wearing thin, and that it was merely reflecting reality when it makes a point. The government's view is that a structured dialogue will take time to deliver results.

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