Norwegian facilitation: JJ throws ball back to govt. court

By Shamindra Ferdinando


UNP MP Dr. Jayalath Jayawardena says ruling SLFP-led coalition has conveniently forgotten that President Mahinda Rajapaksa too accepted Norwegian facilitated peace negotiations at an overseas venue.

President Rajapaksa would not have agreed for talks in Geneva had he not believed in a negotiated settlement under the auspices of Norwegian facilitators, Jayawardena said yesterday.

In a brief interview with the Sunday Island, he recalled the first round of talks between President Rajapaksa’s government and the LTTE late February 2006 in Geneva where they had agreed to go ahead with negotiations.

The UPFA also facilitated LTTE movements to and from the Bandaranaike International Airport , he recalled.

During a live political debate over SLBC , Jayawardena reminded Deputy Agriculture Minister Jagath Pushpakumara that no constituent party of the UPFA except the JHU had opposed the Geneva talks.

Had LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran not forced President Rajapaksa to go on the offensive, the situation would have been different today. Prabhakaran’s foolish act saved President Rajapaksa’s government, Jayawardena said.

Following the Geneva talks, the government and the LTTE had agreed to work in line with the CFA, he said adding that the Rajapaksa administration dealt with the so-called ``Co-Chairs’’ of the peace process - US, EU, Japan and facilitator Norway. 

First Peace Secretariat chief Ambassador Bernard Goonetilike told Lessons Learnt Commission that the Norwegians in consultation with the then LTTE chief negotiator had prepared the CFA which was then presented to Colombo.

Commenting on the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission headed by former Attorney General C.R. de Silva now investigating the signing of the CFA in February 2002 and circumstances leading to Eelam War IV, Jayawardena said that the then UNP-led government had no choice but to seek a negotiated settlement due to what he called precarious battlefield and economic situation.

A series of heavy battlefield defeats on the northern front, particularly the loss the strategic Elephant Pas base (April 2000) and devastating assault on the Bandaranaike International Airport (July 2001), and a negative economic growth had forced Premier Wickremesinghe to discount a possible military option.

Jayawardena went on to say that security forces had experienced unprecedented setbacks during the SLFP-led PA administration and he was ready to go before the commission to defend the UNP as he felt the media coverage was damaging to the party.

UPFA National List MP and one-time head of Peace Secretariat Professor Rajiva Wijesinha will appear before the commission tomorrow (Aug. 23). His predecessor Ambassador Jayantha Dhanapala is scheduled to testify on Wednesday (Aug.25).

Commenting on Rajapaksa-LTTE talks early 2006, Dr. Jayawardena said that the government had sent a delegation led by Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva to Geneva, though the LTTE mounted claymore mine attacks and went to the extent of blowing up a Fast Attack Craft (FAC) off Trincomalee.

The UNP said that the UPFA too had appeased the LTTE and tolerated its high handed actions until being forced to wage for its own survival. Fortunately for President Rajapaksa, the Indian government had sided with Sri Lanka due to the 1991Rajiv Gandhi assassination by an LTTE suicide cadre.

Dr. Jayawardena said that the SLFP leadership too made desperate bids to come to an understanding with the LTTE though they now pretended they always believed in a military victory.

Responding to a query by The Sunday Island, Jayawardena said that nothing could be as foolish as blaming the UNP for GSP+ crisis while regularly having meetings with UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe regarding constitutional reforms.

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