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US team trains SL peace negotiators

The Lankan delegation members have no experience in peace negotiations, reports PK Balachandran.

india Updated: Feb 08, 2006 18:35 IST

A two-man team from the US think tank, Harvard Negotiations Project (HNP), is currently training the Sri Lankan government delegation for the talks with the LTTE to be held in Geneva on February 22 and 23.

The talks are on the implementation of the Ceasefire Agreement, signed exactly four years earlier on February 22, 2002.

The HNP was founded in 1979 by R Fisher, author of the book Getting to Yes.

The US experts are lecturing to the delegation on the theory and practice of negotiations with examples from conflict situations across the globe.

The Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, had already recommended that the negotiators quickly go through Indian author MR Narayan Swamy's book Inside an Elusive Mind -- the only work on LTTE Supremo, Velupillai Prabhakaran.

The media here reported that Rajapaksa had ordered seven copies of Narayan Swamy's book.

Besides the HNP, other experts are also talking to the negotiators.

The panel includes legal luminary SL Gunasekara, and Palitha Kohona, a Sri Lanka born Australian expert on conflict resolution.

The main reason for the four-day brainstorming exercise is that the Sri Lankan delegation comprises persons with no experience in peace negotiations.

None of them had participated in any talks held earlier with the LTTE.

The LTTE's side, on the other hand, is experienced.

It is led by Anton Balasingham, Prabhakaran's political advisor and SP Tamilselvan, head of the political wing.

While Balasingham is a veteran, having led the LTTE delegation in all talks since 1988-89, Tamilselvan has been interacting with foreign government representatives since 2002.

Rajapaksa asks team to toe moderate line

The Sri Lankan delegation, headed by senior cabinet minister Nimal Sripala de Silva, was briefed on Tuesday by President Rajapaksa and leaders of various political parties.

The President said that the negotiation process would be transparent and that he would be briefing the political parties throughout.

Informed sources added that the President would be holding an All Party Conference just ahead of the talks, to brief political leaders across the board on the government's negotiating stance.

In his briefing to the delegation, President Rajapaksa said that nothing should be done to upset the peace applecart.

In a report on the briefing, Daily Mirror said on Wednesday that the consensus was that a moderate line should be taken, so as to keep the dialogue with the LTTE going.

The Sri Lankan government believes that the LTTE is a reluctant participant in the negotiating process, and that it will cleverly seek ways and means to break the talks and go back to war and terrorism.

Many participants in the all-party discussion felt that the delegation should move amendments to the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA), as the document signed in February 2002 is skewed in favour of the LTTE and against Sri Lanka's national interest.

But it was finally agreed that the delegation should not press for these amendments if these would derail the dialogue process.

First Published: Feb 08, 2006 16:52 IST