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Talks crumble in jumble

June 9, 2006
  • LTTE refuses to meet low level SL delegation

  • Govt.recalls Kohona and team but confusion prevails

The much awaited Oslo talks failed to kick off yesterday after the LTTE refused to sit down with a low level Government team to discuss the issues related to the operations of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission and its security.

Government Peace Secretariat Head Palitha Kohona told the Daily Mirror from Oslo that as of last evening (SL time) there were no fresh arrangements for the discussions while Norwegian Minister Erik Solheim’s spokesman Espen Gullikstad told the Daily Mirror that a special news conference was to be held at 9 p.m. last night (12.30 a.m. Friday SL Time) to announce the state of the Oslo talks.

"The LTTE representatives are in another room, we are somewhere else and Minister Solheim is not to be seen. So as of now nothing is happening. We were informed by the Norwegians that the LTTE will not sit down with us," Dr. Kohona said.

LTTE political wing leader S.P. Thamilselvan, who was heading the rebel delegation informed the Norwegian hosts that he would only sit down with a Government ministerial team and not with lower rank officials, LTTE sources said.Mr. Thamilselvan had identified himself as an official who is on par with a minister and told the Norwegians that LTTE peace secretariat head S. Pulithevan will be the lone representative at the talks if the Government side was not represented by a top minister. The Government had however refused to change the composition of its team already in Oslo for the talks and threatened to tell the team to return to Colombo if there was no compromise in the LTTE thinking, while Dr. Kohona also confirmed that the Government team was preparing to come back.

The Government team included Gomin Dayasri, Chanaka Jayasekera and Vaas Goonawardena while the rebel team included

Pulithevan, LTTE ‘police chief’ Nadesan and senior LTTE political officer V. Rudrakumar, who arrived from the United States.

The meeting was arranged to discuss the security of the SLMM made up of members from the Nordic countries, which include three EU members.

However the LTTE refused to sit down with representatives from Sweden, Denmark and Finland who are EU members, owing to the EU ban on the rebels.

The Government delegation informed the Norwegian representatives that in terms of the Status of Mission Agreement (SOMA) it had requested the Royal Norwegian Government to organise and establish the SLMM and "the members of the mission be recruited from among the citizens of the Nordic countries" and expressed the view that nationals from Sweden, Denmark and Finland, although from EU Member States shall be recruited as members of the SLMM in their individual capacities, the Government said in a statement yesterday.

Government defence spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella said the Government team for the talks was made public prior to the two teams leaving for Oslo and as such the latest opposition raised by the rebels was part of the LTTE ‘package of excuses.’

"As the Oslo talks were not to deal with main issues we were not sending a ministerial team. The issues to be discussed have to be dealt by the Peace Secretariat and that was why we sent Dr. Kohona. If it was the Geneva talks then we would have sent a high level ministerial team," he said.

The Government and LTTE delegations arrived separately at the Thorbjørnrud Hotel A.S. in Jevnaker near Oslo, the venue for the talks, on Wednesday evening.Minister Rambukwella said the sequence of events since the failed assassination attempt on the Army commander and the Sea Tiger attack on the Navy last month proved that the LTTE was not committed to peace.

Meanwhile the TamilNet website quoted Mr. Thamilselvan as saying the LTTE delegation in Oslo was engaged in discussions with the Norwegian facilitators on key issues, including the role of international truce monitors.

Responding to media reports that the LTTE was refusing to sit with the Government delegation, Mr. Thamilchelvan said discussions on the monitors at this crucial juncture would be productive and progressive when the LTTE and Government delegations raise the issues separately with the Norwegian facilitators, giving room for them to approach a resolution of these issues.

The Government delegation has the freedom to exercise the same procedure without insisting on meeting the LTTE directly over these issues, he said.

The LTTE delegation was invited to Norway to discuss the role of the SLMM, the security of SLMM staff and the future engagement of the SLMM in a post EU-ban scenario, Mr. Thamilchelvan said.

He also said the LTTE delegation would be meeting International Development Minister Erik Solheim yesterday evening to discuss issues, Mr. Thamilchelvan said. By Easwaran Rutnam

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