Lanka ready to engage LTTE at any time- Foreign Minister
Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama on Thursday September 6 informed
the French Foreign Minister Dr. Bernard Kouchner that the Government of
Sri Lanka remains ready to engage the LTTE at any time.
He expressed the hope that the LTTE will respond positively to this,
at a time when the government through the All party Representative
Committee (APRC) is seeking to finalise a political settlement through
the process of constitutional reform.
Minister Bogollagama was responding to French Foreign Minister
Kouchner when he inquired whether Sri Lanka was keen to restart the
peace process, during discussions at Quaid' Orsay.
Minister Bogollagama detailed the painstaking process adopted since
the Government of President Rajapaksa assumed office in November 2005 to
resume negotiations with the LTTE. He explained that two rounds of talks
were held with the LTTE with little avail.
At the same time a process was initiated through the All Party
Representative Committee (APRC) to build a 'southern consensus' around
constitutional reforms that would bring sustainable peace.
Referring to the recently concluded operations in the Eastern
province, the Minister said the Government was compelled to engage in
these operations after exercising much restraint in the face of the
LTTE's continuing escalation of the conflict using the cover of the
ceasefire agreement. He said the operations recently concluded in the
East were necessary to end terrorism and bring about a pluralistic
democracy in the entire country.
Foreign Minister Bogollagama had earlier acknowledged with
appreciation the involvement of Dr. Kouchner in helping Sri Lanka in
projects concerning the tsunami recovery and also more recently his role
as a member of the International Independent Group of Eminent Persons (IIGEP).
Foreign Minister Kouchner also shared some of his perceptions from the
period he served as a member of the IIGEP.
Minister Bogollagama who acknowledged that the government had gone
through a difficult period due to the escalation of the conflict in the
East by the LTTE, assured the French Foreign Minister that there had
been considerable improvement with regard to these issues in recent
months following the government clearing the Eastern province of the
Together with the international community, the UN system, as well as
international and local NGOs, the Sri Lanka Government had undertaken a
massive effort to redevelop the Eastern Province which for more than a
decade had been ravaged by the LTTE.
He said that of the slightly more than 140,00 who were displaced and
were in welfare centres, 103,000 have returned to their homes at the end
of last month. The Minister said now the focus was on restoring the
livelihoods of the returnees and clearing landmines in order to resettle
those still remaining in welfare centres.
Recognised international and local NGOs have been totally integrated
in these programs and the Government is hopeful that the redevelopment
of the East would become a model of post conflict peace building and
Responding to inquiries from Minister Kouchner on the status of the
killing of the 17 aid workers of the French NGO, Action Against Hunger (ACF),
Minister Bogollagama said the Government takes very serious note of this
and has been transparent in dealing with the situation. The Minister
said while in Paris this week he had held a meeting with the ACF
President and Executive Director. He said both parties agreed on the
need to speedily conclude the investigations and bring the perpetrators
Minister Bogollagama briefed Minister Kouchner on the continuing
threat faced by the LTTE's atrocities and fundraising activities.
He welcomed the recent action taken by France to crack down on LTTE
terrorist activities on French soil, including the arrest of key LTTE
leaders in France and the shutting down of the LTTE owned satellite
channel Tamil Television Network (TTN) which was the main propaganda arm
of the LTTE in Europe.
Minister Bogollagama also drew attention of the French Foreign
Minister to the recent report of the Jane's Intelligence Review which
identifies Paris as the LTTE's operations coordination headquarters in
He said that he had earlier held consultations with Mr. Brice
Hortefeux, Minister of Immigration, Integration, National Identity and
Co-development and Mr. Christian Estrosi, Secretary of State for the
Minister of Interior and officials of the French Intelligence Services.
The two Ministers also discussed the need to enhance tourist traffic
from France to Sri Lanka. The French side assured that the travel
advisory issued by the French government would be amended.
It was also agreed to take steps to increase trade relations between
the two countries. The Minister also thanked the French government for
its pledge to enhance job opportunities for migrants from Sri Lanka in
the professional and skilled work categories and students in the IT and
Natural Science disciplines.
Minister Bogollagama invited Foreign Minister Kouchner to visit Sri
Lanka. It was agreed that a visit could be undertaken early next year.