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MUSLIMS TO BE REPRESENTED AS A SEPARATE UNIT AT THE PEACE TALKS BUT RANIL KEEPS MUM ABOUT SINHALA REPRESENTATION IN THAILAND
By Walter Jayawardhana reporting from Los Angeles

While the Muslims of Sri Lanka would have their own representatives looking after the interests of their ethnic group it is still undecided the Sinhalese Buddhists are going to be represented at the proposed “peace talks” in Thailand , many Sinhala organizations complained to President Chandrika Kumaratunga .     

  After the discussions held by Sri Lanka Muslim Congress leader Rauf Hakeem and LTTE negotiator Anton Balasingham in the Norwegian Ambassador’s residence in London it had been decided that after the first round of talks Sri Lanka Muslim Congress leader and cabinet Minister Rauff Hakeem would cease to become part of the government delegation, and thereafter participate in the negotiations as a representative of the Muslim community, a Norwegian government press release said.   

    Presidential Media Unit spokesman Janadasa Peiris said Sinhala and Buddhist organizations had protested to President Chandrika Kumaratunga that since the UNF government did not specifically represent the interests of the Sinhala Buddhists in the Thailand talks their interests should be somehow represented there by appointing special delegates to the negotiating team.      

 The presidential spokesman said the President would be conveying the protests of the Sinhala Buddhist organizations to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe today.       

Muslims in the Eastern Province also met the President and said that their interests should be represented at the talks since they were at the receiving end of grave human rights violations, extortions and other harm by the terrorist group, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, Janadasa Peiris said.      

  Apart from Muslim and Sinhala Buddhist representations the President was thinking of sending her own representative to the Thailand talks, the Presidential spokesman revealed.      

  Commenting about the Ranil Wickremesinghe administration’s attempt to lift the proscription of the Tamil Tigers the Presidential spokesman said that the President herself was against the lifting of the ban as a pre-condition before the Thailand talks.      

 Explaining what could be done if the government did lift the proscription of the Tamil Tigers disregarding the public opinion the Presidential spokesman said that there were certain legal measures that could be taken against that.    

    He said the vehement protests of the Sinhala and Buddhist organizations conveyed to her would be told to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in her meeting with him today.     

 A delegation of Buddhist monks led by Venerable Ellawela Medhananda met President Chandrika Kumaratunga and conveyed the vehement protests of the Buddhist monks of the country against the government’s decision to lift the ban of the Tamil Tigers.     

 Earlier a delegation consisting of Venerable Daranagama Kusaladhamma, former Supreme Court Justice Raja Wansundara, President of the Sinhala Commission S.W.Walpita, President of the Sinhala Jathika Sangamaya, S.L. Gunasekera, Presidential Counsel Douglas Premaratne, Secretary of the Joint National Committee, Dr. Piyasena Dissanayaka, Professor Oliver Abeynaike , Gemunu Hemantha Adhikari and former Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayaka representing varied Sinhala Buddhist interests met the President.       

At this meeting the President told delegates that she was against granting an interim administration council to the LTTE to run the northern and Eastern provinces, as promised by the Prime Minister to the terrorist group.     The delegates said before any peace talks the LTTE was forming their own police force, law courts, and banks indicating they were running a de-facto separate state.     

 The President told the delegates that she had given strict instructions to the Security Council to take all steps possible to stop the LTTE smuggling in arms and ammunition to the country.  

     It was at this meeting it was specifically pointed out that the Sinhala interests were not represented at the Thailand talks. (EOM)                         

(04/09/01 go2lanka.com)

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