Sri Lankan power-sharing talks near collapse

AP News
Posted: Aug 05, 2011 9:20 AM
Sri Lankan power-sharing talks near collapse

Talks aimed at power sharing after Sri Lanka's civil war appeared near collapse Friday, with an ethnic minority Tamil party demanding that the government explain its position within two weeks but the government saying it is unable to do so.

Instead, the government announced it would appoint a parliamentary committee to reach a consensus on the issues. President Mahinda Rajapaksa's ethnic majority Sinhalese-controlled government holds a sizable majority in Parliament.

The Tamil National Alliance said it has tried to discuss the issues for months but the government has not responded. The government and TNA have held 10 rounds of talks since January.

"This we regret to state was clearly demonstrative of the lack of a genuine commitment on the part of the government to the evolution of an acceptable political solution," it said in a statement.

The party, considered a proxy for the now-defeated Tamil Tiger rebels, has emerged as a strong political force since the end of the civil war two years ago, winning a majority of parliamentary seats in the ethnic Tamil majority north.

It has abandoned the rebels' demand for an independent Tamil state and instead is calling for power sharing based on federalism.

Rajapaksa already has rejected Tamil control over local police and land.

The government has come under increasing international pressure, especially from neighboring India and the United States, to provide a political solution to the ethnic problem by sharing power with the Tamil minority.

The Tamil party said the government is trying to show the world that it is engaged in a political process, but that the talks are "no more than a mere facade."

"It is in these circumstances that the TNA questioned the continuance of such a deceitful process," it said. It demanded that the government state its position on the division of national and local political and monetary powers within two weeks.

The government responded that such a statement could not be made "hastily and without wider consultation," and said it would establish a parliamentary committee to discuss the issues. Such a committee would likely supplant the direct talks between the government and TNA.

Sri Lanka's 25-year civil war ended in 2009 after government troops crushed the Tamil Tigers. An estimated 80,000 to 100,000 people were killed in the fighting.