Govt-TNA talks resumeSeptember 16, 2011, 8:55 pm
Despite all the grandstanding and a hiatus of more than one and a half months the Tamil National Alliance yesterday resumed talks with the Government as predicted by visiting US Assistant Secretary of State Robert O. Blake early this week.
At the last round of talks held on August 02, the TNA virtually issued an ultimatum to the government to respond to its proposals on finding a solution to the ethnic question by August 18.
TNA Leader R. Sampanthan told The Island last night that the return to discussion table was a positive change and parties are performing with a sense of responsibility with the country and well being of the people in mind.
He said the next round of talks would be held on October 03.
Questioned as to whether the visiting US envoy had influenced them to return to the discussion table, Sampanthan denied any American involvement.
Asked what would be on the agenda at the next meeting, the TNA Leader replied "can’t tell you. It will be on the purpose of the talks"
Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha who was a member of the Government team at yesterday’s talks said there was no ultimatum in the first place, but a wrong interpretation of what transpired at the last round of discussion.
He said he (Wijesinha) was unable to attend that last meeting and the preceding one, but when he got back he spoke to everyone and they all said they wanted to continue with the discussions.And all that the TNA wanted was a response from the government to their proposals.
A joint statement issued last night by the two sides signed by leader of the Government delegation Nimal Siripala de Sulva and leader of TNA delegation R. Sampanthan said: "These discussions recommenced today after a meeting the President had with R. Sampanthan on 2nd September 2011.
"It was agreed at this meeting that the talks could continue on the basis of the Discussion Paper submitted by the TNA on 18th March 2011 along with earlier proposals, statements, and reports for Constitutional Reforms made public so as to agree on the principles that should form the basis of a political settlement to arrive at acceptable Constitutional arrangements soon".
The Government delegation comprised Nimal Siripala De Silva. Prof. G. L. Peiris, Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha and Sajin de Vass Gunawardena, (Secretary to the Committee) The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) was led by R. Sampanthan and comprised Mavai Senathirajah, Suresh Premachandran, M. A. Sumanthiran and K. Kanag-Isvaran, President’s Counsel.
Following August 02 tough stand TNA firebrand M.A. Sumanthiran explained in an interview "We gave a paper to the government at the second round of talks on the February 3. They requested for a detailed report when we handed it to the government. We then gave a detailed one during the next round of talks held on March 18. We were told that the report was comprehensive. But the government delegation requested time for them to go through the proposals.
"Although the next round of talks was scheduled for April 7, discussion on our paper was specifically scheduled for April 29. However, it was not discussed because they were not ready. That was the story told to us at subsequent meetings. And we had our 10th meeting last Thursday (August 02). So, we have had seven rounds of discussions without the government’s response to our set of proposals. During one of the meetings, they told us that they would respond to us in writing. And then they said that they cannot give it in writing.
"The point is that we have given them sufficient time and sufficient number of meetings for them to state the government’s position with regard to the points that we have raised. How can we go ahead with the discussion if they do not state the government’s position? That is why we said that there was no point in us meeting and going back without the government’s response every time. So we thought that it was enough and told them to tell us when they are ready with the response so that we could continue with the discussions".