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Chandrika for joint peace council

By V.S. Sambandan

COLOMBO Nov. 28. In a move towards a consensual approach to conflict resolution, the Sri Lankan President, Chandrika Kumaratunga, today mooted the formation of a Joint Peace Council (JPC) to be co-chaired by her and the Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, to "oversee and manage'' the peace process.

On the resumption of negotiations, Ms. Kumaratunga proposed that Colombo's present team restart "initial peace talks'' after which a National Peace Negotiating Delegation has been suggested to hold "main talks'' with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The "overall framework under which the Government's proposals are to be submitted to the LTTE, along with the negotiating guidelines,'' are to be "cleared by the JPC before formal negotiations begin''.

In a seven-page proposal to Mr. Wickremesinghe, the President also suggested the creation of the post of a "Minister assisting Defence'', to be nominated by the Prime Minister who can "work cordially with the President''.

Ms. Kumaratunga's proposals, details of which were made available to The Hindu, are aimed at "a common consensus'' among political parties to "achieve a peacefully negotiated, lasting peace that is both inclusive of the aspirations of all citizens of Sri Lanka within a united country''.

The proposed JPC will be assisted by an Advisory Council on Peace (ACP) comprising representatives of all political parties, clergy, professional and other national groups, and it provides for "various technical committees to examine various aspects of the peace process''.

Welcoming the JPC suggestion, Jayadeva Uyangoda, Professor of Political Science, Colombo University, said: "the move to co-chair the peace process is a recognition of the seriousness of the current situation. They should have built such an institutional mechanism much earlier''.

Defence portfolio

The President also made it clear that she "will be in charge'' of the Defence portfolio and through the Defence Secretary "will provide the necessary support, facilities and all other required assistance to the JPC and its constituent units in the furtherance of the peace process''.

On the issue of who would be responsible for the peace process, Ms. Kumaratunga's proposals say that "the Prime Minister will be in charge of the peace negotiations'' and "would from time to time and when requested by the JPC, keep it informed of the progress'' and "take guidance'' from it on "matters of policy''. The Minister assisting Defence would also coordinate between the President and the Prime Minister "on all matters common between the peace process and related security issues''.

While Ms. Kumaratunga would hold "overriding powers'' in Defence, "the security functions that are directly connected to the maintenance of the ceasefire agreement and the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission would be gazetted by the President under the Minister assisting Defence'', the proposals said.

The facilitators, Norway would be "invited to resume their work'' and "asked to make arrangements to resume peace talks with the LTTE''. While the "present working arrangements'' with the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission "will continue'', a "detailed terms of reference and guidelines'' would be formulated "for the smooth operation''.

The President also proposed that a Muslim delegation "will respond'' to the LTTE's counter proposals, which "will be made available'' to her by the Prime Minister.

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