Consider all issues before lifting ban: Chandrika

by Nirupama Subramanian
The Sri Lankan President, Chandrika Kumaratunga, wants the government to consider the de-proscription of the LTTE as part of a package of issues in the peace process, her spokesman said today in a veiled demand for guarantees from the group in return for lifting the ban on it.

"Is the LTTE committed to not carrying out killings of civilians, assassinations and suicide attacks on economic targets? Would there be a memorandum of understanding with the LTTE on these issues? These are some of the issues for which there are no answers, but they have to be taken as part of the process;" said Harim Peiris, the presidential spokesman.

Mr. Peiris said if the LTTE committed "formally and verifiably" to a process, to eschew violence, proscription would automatically become unnecessary. Though he was at pains to stress that the President was not linking the de-proscription to these issues, it was apparent that these were some of the guarantees that Ms. Kumaratunga expected the government of her rival, Ranil Wickremesinghe, to obtain from the LTTE before taking a decision to lift the ban.

Not wanting to be seen as a spoiler, Ms. Kumaratunga evidently does not want to describe these as "pre-conditions" to the removal of the ban. "We would place no obstacle to the peace process. We remain fully committed to it," Mr. Peiris said. But, he said, the President was concerned that "the process should be correct in order to be successful".

Asked what "correct" was, Mr. Peiris said the truce that was being observed unilaterally by both sides should be converted into a mutual cease-fire. He also conveyed the President’s concern on other issues such as a time-frame and agenda for talks with the LTTE, its recruitment of child soldiers and its co-operation in de-mining northern Sri Lanka. - (The Hindu)