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The BBC's Susannah Price in Colombo
"Up to now the opposition refused to support the plan"
 real 28k

Thursday, 20 January, 2000, 15:15 GMT
Sri Lanka devolution plan

The Sri Lankan Government has said it will discuss a devolution proposal, aimed at ending the lengthy civil war, with all political parties as well as Tamil Tiger rebels before placing it before parliament.

The government of President Chandrika Kumaratunga said a new draft constitution, containing the new proposals, would be placed before parliament in three months.

Conflict in Sri Lanka
  • An unwinnable war?
  • Timeline of conflict
  • Leading the Tigers
  • The ethnic divide
  • Sri Lanka's Tamil parties have cautiously welcomed an announcement by the main opposition United National Party (UNP) that it will back the government's plan.

    On Wednesday, UNP leader Ranil Wickramasinghe said he would extend his support to the government's devolution plan, which has been stalled for more than four years.

    "We have always maintained that there should be consensus between the UNP and President Kumaratunga's People's Alliance for there to be lasting peace in this country," said Dharmalingam Sidhathan of the People's Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE).

    "The government should seize this opportunity to take the peace process forward," Mr Sidhathan said.


    The BBC's Susannah Price in Colombo says the UNP's support for the controversial plan was completely unexpected.

    Since you have no other alternative, we will not stand in your way
    UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe

    Mr Wickremesinghe said he did not think the proposal would bring peace to the country but was willing to give it a chance.

    "We do not believe that the process proposed by you will be a solution to the problem in the country," Mr Wickremesinghe said in a letter to Ms Kumaratunga.

    "However, since you have no other alternative, we will not stand in your way," he said.

    The power-sharing agreement, which will allow limited autonomy to Tamil majority areas, was held up because the UNP blocked the two-thirds majority needed to push it through parliament.

    Soon after being elected to her first term as president, in 1994, Ms Kumaratunga initiated peace talks with the separatist Tamil Tigers.

    But the talks collapsed within a year.

    After narrowly winning re-election last December, the president pledged to continue efforts to find peace.

    More than 50,000 lives have been lost in the ethnic conflict since it began in 1972.

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    See also:
    04 Jan 00 |  South Asia
    Sri Lankan leader accuses opposition
    18 Dec 99 |  South Asia
    Analysis: Fifteen years of bloodshed
    11 Aug 99 |  South Asia
    Sri Lanka: Searching for a solution
    22 Dec 99 |  South Asia
    Kumaratunga re-elected in Sri Lanka
    14 Aug 99 |  South Asia
    Hope for Sri Lankan peace
    23 Oct 99 |  South Asia
    Sri Lankan president vows peace

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