Monday, Jul 21, 2003
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By V.S. Sambandan
The details of Colombo's proposals have not been made public either by the Government or the Tigers. However, a report in the Sunday Times said the offer gives the LTTE a majority stake, but without powers over police, security, land and revenue. It also raised optimism that the talks, stalled since the LTTE's unilateral pullout on April 21, would resume. However, with the LTTE not yet responding to the offer, observers are "still unsure" if a resumption of talks is on the cards.
The "Discussion Paper" submitted by the Government, according to the Sunday Times, provides for a Provisional Administrative Council, with members nominated by the Government, "which will include nominees" by the Opposition People's Alliance, headed by the President, Chandrika Kumaratunga. The two other categories of members are those nominated by the LTTE and the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress. The numbers would "be determined to ensure" two factors a "majority for the LTTE" and "weighted representation" for the Muslims and the Sinhalese in the council, the newspaper said.
Officials were hesitant to confirm the contents of the reported document, which was Colombo's third response to the LTTE demand for an interim administration outside Sri Lanka's unitary constitution, with a majority stake for itself, and as proposed by its leadership. The Tigers had rejected the two earlier proposals saying they wanted a "politico-administrative" mechanism, but of late, the LTTE's emphasis has been on a structure that will help "humanitarian" activities. The LTTE could not be reached for comment.
Colombo's latest proposals also provide two alternatives scenarios for the post of a chairperson. The first is to have two chairpersons, one elected by the LTTE and the other by the Government, "by and from amongst the members of the Council". Each chairperson would have "the right to veto any proposal". The alternative proposal is to have one chairperson, elected from the council, but in this case, "any decision of the council that affects" either the Muslim or Sinhala community would have to pass a double majority both at the council and by the representatives of that particular community.
The other features include the office of the Special Commissioner, the institution of a Special Fund, the creation of District Committees, and committees for Economic Affairs, Infrastructure and Essential Services.
The "powers and functions" reportedly on offer include: "as are at present exercised and performed by the Government, in respect of regional administration except the area of police and security, land and revenue - but include rehabilitation, reconstruction and resettlement".
Political observers see the latest situation as providing an equal chance for either the talks to resume or the stalemate to continue. A former militant points out that the LTTE could find the "two chairpersons" concept "unacceptable". In addition, the grant of veto powers to the Muslims and the Sinhalese is also likely to be a point of contention, he said.
"I am not sure if there is a need for the LTTE to continue talks, with these reported proposals", he said, adding, "they might do so, if they need to gain time".
The possibility of the impasse continuing is not ruled out by Jayadeva Uyangoda, head of Political Science, University of Colombo. "A mutually-acknowledged stalemate in the negotiations is a likely scenario," he said.
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