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Sunday, 27 April 2003  
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Business community urges LTTE to get back to negotiating table

The business community, reacting to the LTTE's decision last week to temporarily pull out of peace talks, urged them to get back to the negotiating table for everybody to enjoy lasting peace. They called on the Government to iron out any differences with the LTTE after discussions.

The LTTE announced that it is temporarily pulling out of peace talks with the Government over "certain critical issues relating to the ongoing peace process", but that it is committed towards a negotiated political settlement to the conflict.

LTTE Chief Negotiator Anton Balasingham had written to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe that they have decided to suspend participation in the negotiations for the time being. The organisation's exclusion from the pre-donor conference held recently in Washington is said to be one of the reasons which had prompted the decision to pull out.

Chairman National Chamber of Commerce of Sri Lanka Asoka Gunasekera said: "We sincerely hope that it is a temporary pull-out. The Government will have to talk with the LTTE and iron out the differences.

The Government cannot give anything and everything the LTTE asks for, but they can sit down with the LTTE and iron out the differences as the peace process has come a long way. There will be pitfalls and differences along the way, but they have to be resolved for everybody to enjoy lasting peace".

He said the private sector fully supports the endeavours of the Government and added that the whole country should appreciate the Government's efforts to bring lasting peace to the nation.

Gunasekera said LTTE's temporary pull-out from the peace talks will not postpone the donor conference to be held in Tokyo. He said that it is crucial for Sri Lanka's development. The private sector is also supporting the Government to focus and project the country positively in every aspect at the donor conference.

Chairman Ceylon National Chamber of Industries Ranjith Hettiarachchi said the Government must have the strength and act in a tactful manner. It should voice one opinion from the South and show its commitment to peace.

He said there will be many challenges and problems to overcome as it is very difficult to build trust after decades of mistrust, anger and hatred. "Although the path is difficult, it has to be taken for the common good of all Sri Lankans", he said. Colombo Stock Exchange sources said that as soon as the announcement was made on Tuesday, the market reacted and investors pulled out. However, as the day went on, investments started to pick up. Since then, investors have been active with the confidence that it is not a permanent scenario.

Kingsley Bernard, Vice President National Chamber of Exporters said: "Nobody welcomes this decision, but we sincerely hope that it is temporary. The impact on business will be negative if it is going to be long drawn. So far, the pull-out has not affected exports, but if it drags on, it might. Therefore, it is best if everyone gets together and reach a settlement soon".

Chief Executive Officer

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