14th December, 2003 Volume 10, Issue 22

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ē Malik - Mano talks collapse

CBK, Ranil prepare for polls

President Chandrika Kumaratunga on Friday informed the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) organisers that she will be signing an agreement with the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) very shortly and to prepare for snap elections.

President Kumaratungaís call comes in the backdrop of reports that the Mano-Malik talks to end the political gridlock following President Kumaratungaís take over of three ministries had virtually collapsed by Thursday.

President Kumaratunga informed the SLFP organisers that the talks between her officials and Prime Ministerís nominees had not made any progress and that the curtain will fall on those talks tomorrow, December 15.

The officials committee, which met on Thursday at Temple Trees, failed to reach agreement on two sets of proposals forwarded by President Kumaratunga and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe.

The President has said that she will not hand over the Defence Ministry to the government but has proposed the appointment of a national security minister from the government to be in charge of north east security.

According to the Presidentís proposal all military activities and operations within the north east would be gazetted under the national security minister.

However, her proposals stated that the armed forces and the national intelligence services would be directly under the President.

In rejecting the Presidentís proposals the Prime Minister had submitted a compromise formula stating Kumaratungaís arrangement was not workable in practical terms due to the inevitable confusion that would follow over the command structure.

The Prime Minister had proposed that the President retain the defence portfolio with all defence related issues to be decided at the National Security Council to be chaired by the President.

However Wickremesinghe had proposed that the armed forces and the intelligence services should be gazetted under the Prime Minister or the proposed National Security Ministry.

The Prime Minister had pointed out he would not be in a position to take responsibility for the peace process without control of the defence levers.

On Thursday Presidentís senior advisor Manor Tittawela informed Prime Ministerís nominees Bradman Weerakoon and Malik Samarawickrema that the President had rejected the Prime Ministerís proposals.

It is learnt that Samarawickrema had informed Tittawela that given this gridlock they should formally conclude the talks on Friday to enable the respective parties to take their political decision, given the inevitable breakdown of the talks.

Tittawela it is learnt had on Friday morning informed Samarawickrema that the meeting be postponed for Monday to formally end the talks.

Prime Minister had on Friday informed the UNP hierarchy to prepare for a snap poll, a message he was to repeat to the UNP convention on Saturday.

The President who briefed the SLFP organisers on Friday called upon her members to ready for an election but indicated she would first go for provincial polls.

President Kumaratunga had also given a time table to the organisers targeting February/March to finish all their organisational activities with a view to facing elections.

Several organisers had however urged the President to first hold a general election which proposal however was strongly opposed by several MPs.

President Thursday night hosting PA parliamentarians for dinner had informed several of them that the talks with the UNP was heading for collapse and that they should be prepared for a snap general election.

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