Not calling off talks with TNA: SL government

Colombo: Sri Lanka today said it was committed to salvage its flailing talks with the TNA over the contentious Tamil issue and appealed to the umbrella political grouping to rethink its stand and nominate members to a parliamentary panel that would go into the subject.

Dismissing reports that the Sri Lankan Government has called off talks with the Tamil National Alliance over differences, External Affairs Minister G L Peiris said, rather steps were being taken to make parleys more "constructive".

The government has been engaged in talks with the TNA to settle the vexed ethnic issue but discussions were derailed over the question of relegating policing and land powers to the provinces as part of devolution of power to the Tamil dominated northern and eastern areas.

During a joint media interaction with his Indian counterpart S M Krishna, Peiris made it clear that the Sri Lankan Government was committed to continuing the dialogue with the TNA, which has emerged as the only credible Tamil political grouping the country.

"It would not be correct to say that the Government has called off the talks. Not at all. On the contrary, we want to make it a success. The process has to be inclusive. We cannot achieve success if we exclude the vast majority of political opinion," he said in response to a question on whether the talks have been called off. There was no clarity on whether the talks which were to resume today took place or not.

The TNA has been maintaining that it would not send its nominees to the Parliamentary Committee as it feels that it would be of no use.

Peiris said the TNA should participate in the deliberations by naming its nominees to the Parliamentary Select Committee that would go into the ethnic issue in the country. He said the focus should now be on implementation and both sides can move towards a set of proposals which could be implemented.
"We can make the talks a success. The condition for success is inclusive. If talks exclude most areas of the political opinion of the country, there is no spirit of inclusiveness," he said.

The talks between the Government and TNA reached a deadlock as the Tamil group stuck to its demand that land and police powers be vested with the provincial government as envisaged in the 13th Amendment.

The Government had rejected it earlier, but President Mahinda Rajapaksa told Krishna that he was committed to the implementation of the 13th Amendment.