No other way but negotiations, says Ranil

The government has no alternative but to negotiate with the LTTE, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told editors of national newspapers during a discussion on Thursday night.

Asked whether he believed the LTTE was trustworthy in view of Thursday morning’s clash between the Tiger boats and the navy while the former was trying to smuggle in arms, Wickremesinghe said that they had to negotiate with the terrorists because there was no other way.

Asked whether he sees the LTTE as being equal to a sovereign government, the premier replied in the negative, specifying that he saw the peace process as "negotiations with another party."

The ceasefire agreement did not address the issue of de-proscription or any other matters of importance. De-banning will come up only later in the process, he said.

Wickremesinghe said that the agreement entered into between the Tigers and government pertained exclusively to a cessation of hostilities and claimed it would not endanger national security. Sri Lanka troops would continue to be on high alert. The memorandum did not extend to the seas and the navy had every right to intercept vessels bringing in arms. It also prohibits abductions.

He was asked whether the provision for armed LTTE cadres to move into government-held areas would eventually lead to them smuggling in weapons and the areas being occupied by armed LTTE members. Wickremesinghe replied that everyone entering cleared areas would have to pass through certain checkpoints where their identities would be registered.

With regards to the monitoring mission which would include LTTE, government and Norwegian representatives, most of the supervision would be done by way of verification of complaints made.

Wickremesinghe also stressed that the ceasefire agreement had been reached after exhaustive consultations with armed forces and police.