Vol. 5 Num 70 Thu. August 05, 2004  

Chandrika ready to talk LTTE self-rule

Sri Lanka's president said yesterday she was ready to discuss a self-rule proposal by Tamil Tiger rebels and denied state media reports that she had rejected the controversial guerrilla blueprint for peace.

President Chandrika Kumar-atunga's office took the unusual step of rejecting reports in government media, including radio and television, that said she had dismissed the Tigers' demands for talks based on their self-rule proposal.

"The president maintains that the government of Sri Lanka is willing to discuss with the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) its proposal for an interim administration alongside the talks to reach a final solution acceptable to all communities," the government's official website, run by Kumaratunga's office, said.

It said state media reports had wrongly "implied" that the government had "totally rejected" the LTTE's Interim Self-Governing Authority proposals which were first unveiled on October 31 last year.

The president's office also said that Irrigation Minister Maithripala Sirisena, who was quoted in the state media as saying Kumaratunga had ruled out talks based on the proposals, had issued a statement denying remarks attributed to him.

Top government officials and diplomats were stunned by the reports, which appeared to be a departure from the president's comments last month when she said she was willing to discuss the setting up of an "interim authority" for the island's embattled, Tamil-dominated northern and eastern regions.

There had been mixed signals from the government to the LTTE's proposal, with Kumaratunga's shaky Marxist-backed minority coalition and the president herself describing it as a "stepping stone to a separate state."