Kumaratunga slams Japan and Norway

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka President Chandrika Kumaratunga has slammed her embattled nation's peace broker Norway and financial backer Japan for overstepping their brief as they struggled to revive a stalled peace bid. 

Kumaratunga said Norway was called in as a “facilitator” in bringing the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam to the negotiating table, but not to be a “mediator or an arbitrator”. 

She accused the Norwegians of compromising the sovereignty of her Indian ocean island, which has been wracked by three decades of ethnic bloodshed that has claimed more than 60,000 lives. 

“Norwegians were invited by me only as facilitators, not as mediators or arbitrators,” Kumaratunga told a dinner meeting of the Foreign Correspondents' Association of Sri Lanka on Friday. 

“Would any government have tolerated a group of foreigners telling them to write away their sovereignty by recognising another navy? They clearly recommended to the government of Sri Lanka that they recognise the Tigers' navy.” 

She was also unhappy with Japan's attempts to persuade the Tigers to resume peace talks with Colombo and attend a crucial donors conference Tokyo is hosting next month. 

“I don't know what role Japan has been given in the developing peace process,” Kumaratunga said when asked for her reaction to the hands-on approach of Japan's Norwegian-backed peace process. 

“I was told by the Japanese government and also by the prime minister that it was strictly and exclusively a role to advise the government of Sri Lanka on development of the north-east. 

Japan appointed a special peace envoy to Sri Lanka late last year after Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe held talks with President George W. Bush at the White House and Washington stepped up its ties with Colombo. 

The United States hosted a seminar last month to set the foundation for the June 9-10 Tokyo aid meeting, which is aimed at drumming up international financial support to rebuild Sri Lanka. 

Diplomats have noted the unprecedented international involvement in the latest peace initiative as a positive sign differentiating it from four previous bids that failed and led to more bloodshed. 

Kumaratunga went public about inviting Norway to broker peace in December 1999 a few days after surviving a suicide bomb assassination bid, blamed on the Tigers. 

She said on Friday that she would exercise her constitutional right to sack the government only if it threatened the sovereignty of the island. 

She accused Wickremesinghe of not disclosing his “framework” for negotiating with the Tigers. 

The talks have been on hold since last month when the Tigers suspended their participation in negotiations in protest at what they call the slow delivery on promises made at six rounds of discussions since September. – AFP  

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