Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka: Fourth round of talks end successfully - Government, LTTE focus on humanitarian priorities

The fourth round of talks between the government and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) focused on the humanitarian aspects of the post-conflict situation, the negotiating teams said yesterday.
In a statement read by the Norwegian Deputy Foreign Minister Vidar Helgesen, the two parties said a decision was made to ensure implementation of urgent humanitarian priorities.

These facts were revealed at a press conference addressed by chief facilitator Helgesen, the government's team leader Minister Professor G.L. Peiris and the LTTE's Anton Balasingham. The fourth round held at the Rose Garden Golf resort near Bangkok in Thailand ended yesterday.

The parties noted that "political progress must be underpinned by tangible improvements in the daily lives of people to this end there is need for more effective implementation by the parties as well as the speedy provision of funds by the donors".

In this context the teams agreed that the World Bank would be the custodian of the funds given by donors for rehabilitation of the North and East.

An action plan for an accelerated resettlement of Jaffna was agreed upon. The first phase of resettlement will be outside the High Security Zones (HSZs) maintained by the Sri Lankan Armed Forces.

The available resources for this purpose are to be identified by January 20 and the Army will give a list of the premises they can hand back to their owners by January 31.

The second phase of the action will focus on resettlement within the HSZs "as and when they are released by the Security Forces".

The action plan set a strict timetable for the various targets to be reached.

The parties agreed to meet with the UNHCR to begin the programme.

There was no agreement on the issue of the sub-committee on De-escalation and Normalisation and Prof Peiris said such disagreements should be expected as the process goes on. "However the fact that the talks are continuing shows the commitment of both parties to the process," he said.

At the next session of the talks to be held in early February the parties are due to evolve a mechanism to monitor human rights and the assistance of Ian Martin, the former head of Amnesty International would be obtained for this purpose.

An independent verification mechanism will also be established for persons missing in action and involuntary disappearances with the assistance of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

They also resolved to hold monthly meetings between the LTTE, the government and the SLMM to "reinforce respect for the provisions of the ceasefire agreement."

Defence Secretary Austin Fernando and the LTTE's Karuna will head the teams in this arrangement, they said.

The parties also agreed to ask the Norwegian facilitators to propose procedures to ensure rapid corrective action by the parties in cases of incidents that are or can be perceived as disrupting the peace process.

The names of the members of the Sub Committee on Women was also announced. The members from the government are Dr. Kumari Jayawardene, Dr. Deepika Udagama, Kumudini Samuel, Faizoon Zakariya and Dr. Fazeela Riyas. The LTTE nominees are Sivahimi Subramaniyam, Renuka Sanmugaraja, Mathimalar Balasingham, Sridevy Sinnathampi and Vasanathapiraminy Samasundaram.