NATIONAL

`Make peace talks inclusive'

COLOMBO NOV. 9. With Sri Lanka's conflict resolution process moving into the committee mode after the recently-concluded second round of talks in Thailand, there have been calls for making the negotiations inclusive by accommodating the various stakeholders.

The call, which came formally from a pro-peace lobby, the National Peace Council of Sri Lanka, was for the need for the Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) ``to formulate their strategies in a manner that recognises the right of people to participate in the peace process''.

The main Opposition party, the People's Alliance (PA), has expressed similar sentiments. A senior leader said the party's support would be on an issue-by-issue basis and called for greater transparency, saying that there should be representation of all sections. The party expressed caution against just the Government and the LTTE deciding on the issues, without taking the others into confidence.

Reacting to the second round of talks, the National Peace Council's media director, Jehan Perera, termed the formation of committees as an ``unexpected breakthrough'' which was ``much ahead of schedule''. These developments ``can be considered as indications that both parties are committed and trust each other in their search for a political solution''.

It, however, referred to three areas of concern. Apart from making the talks inclusive, it mentioned the consequences of the court's verdict on the LTTE leader, V. Prabakaran, and the need for winning the support of the other stakeholders.

``While it is important that the Government and the LTTE retain their ability to move forward in the peace process, the Council believes it is also important that the peace process accommodate other actors and stakeholders to transform it into a more inclusive one.''

The ``longer term sustainability'' of the process would ``critically hinge'' on the ability of the Government and the LTTE to ``mobilise and enlist the support of other actors and stakeholders''.

The two main political parties, the ruling United National Front and the PA, should also come together to translate any results of the talks into a constitutional settlement. Winning the confidence of the Muslims, who are spread across the eastern districts, is also crucial for the outcome.

The PA has expressed concerns over the consequences that any solution might have on the Sinhalese living in the east — a region with near equal distribution of the three main ethnicities.

`Amnesty, a negative impact'

The Council cautioned that ``any attempt to grant a sweeping amnesty'' for war crimes would have a ``negative impact'' on the peace process.

Referring to the LTTE's reaction to the 200-year jail-term for Mr. Prabakaran for his alleged involvement in the bombing of the Central Bank building in Colombo, it said, ``both parties need to accept and acknowledge their responsibilities in committing war crimes and abuse of human rights before any agreement is reached on the grant of amnesty''.

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