Parliamentary committee to assess MoU shelved?

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The UNP-led United National Front (UNF) government appeared to be having second thoughts in setting up a parliamentary committee with a mandate to assess the implementation of the Norwegian-arranged cease-fire agreement reached on February 22, political sources said.

The sources said that the TULF-led Tamil National Alliance (TNA) has opposed the founding of a parliamentary committee with such a mandate. The alliance has pointed out that it would have a harmful impact on the peace process aimed at bringing the LTTE back to the negotiating table, the sources said.

In the first week of March, premier Ranil Wickremesinghe accepted a suggestion made by LSSP General Secretary Batty Weerakoon that a parliamentary committee with a mandate to assess on a continuation basis the implementation of the cease-fire agreement. Premier Wickremesinghe also said that he was in full agreement with the suggestion, while promising early action to set up the committee. In a letter to Weerakoon, premier Wickremesinghe has suggested that the committee should be nominated by political parties represented in parliament and entrusted with a mandate to assess on a continuation basis the progress made in respect of the implementation of the agreement. The premier also offered his office as a link between the proposed committee and the Norwegian-led Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) while promising to take steps necessary to keep the parliamentary committee briefed by the SLMM.

Responding to questions, Weerakoon yesterday agreed that the government has failed to keep its promise. He said that he discussed the issue with the government. He expressed the belief that nothing would come out of his suggestion despite the government promptly responding in favour of a parliamentary committee.

The sources said that the government and the opposition have already discussed the issue. However, the TNA which designated the LTTE as the "sole representative of the Tamil-speaking people" weeks before the last parliamentary elections, has rejected the idea.

Both the SLFP-led PA and the JVP have been critical of the SLMM. President Chandrika Kumaratunga has repeatedly expressed concern over the way the SLMM handles the situation. She strongly criticised the cease-fire monitors over the way they handled the recent incidents involving the navy and the LTTE in the Trincomalee seas where three boats laden with arms were allowed to proceed to their destination despite the fact that the MoU prevents such movements.