|Sunday, 15 September 2002|
Monitors smoothen initial hiccups
by S. SELVAKUMAR
While Government and LTTE delegations head for Sattahip for the historic first round of formal political negotiations, the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) is busy creating a conducive environment in the war torn areas to facilitate and smoothen any initial hiccups that may crop up during the first phase of the Thailand peace talks.
The last such measure just prior to tomorrow's talks was the high level discussion the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission's head, Major General Trond Furuhovde, had with LTTE political wing leader S. P. Thamilchelvam at Vanni on Friday. The talks centered round on facilitating the sea movement of LTTE vessels between the Northern and Eastern seas, expediting the process of prisoners' swap, renovating and rebuilding of school buildings and places of worship damaged due to war and resettlement of refugees.
"A high degree of compromise was reached on all issues discussed" sources said. On Thursday Gen. Furuhovde met with Jaffna Army Commander Major General Sarath Fonseka and LTTE area commander Theepan at Muhamalai and several contemptuous issues in fully implementing the Memorandum of Understanding between the government and the LTTE were discussed and solutions found, sources further said.
The Norwegian government development agency, NORAD, has pledged Rs. 190 million as aid to reconstruct buildings that housed 132 schools in the North and work on this will commence soon. The LTTE has also enthusiastically welcomed the Government's move to initially admit 25 Sinhala and Muslim students to the Medical faculty of the Jaffna University. This was the first time in 20 years that non-Tamil students are being admitted to the Jaffna University.
Despite anti-peace lobbies' attempt to put a spoke in the peace wheel both the Government and the LTTE showed signs of optimism that the talks would be fruitful." The Norwegian Deputy Foreign Minister Vidar Helgesen said in Oslo last week that the negotiators face several hurdles and the solution would take a long time coming. He heads a five-strong Norwegian delegation which will enjoy observer status.
The SLMM in a statement issued on Friday said that MoU violations complained from either side has shown a decrease of 40 per cent in August when compared to July and inferred that this was a sign of goodwill and expected further reduction in complaints as the talks progress. At the Vanni talks on Friday, Thamilchelvam assured the SLMM delegation further commitment to stick to the MoU.
Produced by Lake House