It is all systems go for today’s preliminary round of peace talks between the Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) with the delegates of both parties already settled in their suites in the Ambassador City Jomtien Hotel is Pattaya, the sprawling beach resort 200 kms east of Bangkok.
Pattaya, famous for its bright neon lights and hectic nightlife appeared to have taken on added colour to welcome its visitors, including around 400 journalists from around the world.
Tight security was evident at the Ambassador which is trying to cope with the heavy influx while the rooms occupied by the VIPs were kept a heavily guarded secret.
The Daily News was however able to catch up with the delegates to the talks, Ministers Milinda Moragoda and Rauff Hakeem in the lobby of the Ambassador.
Minister Moragoda said the initial talks would be confined to fixing the agenda for the next round of talks, tentatively scheduled for October. According to Minister Hakeem the parties were keen to have the next round of talks before the budget in early November.
Asked about his role in the peace talks, Hakeem said just as the Sinhalese and Tamils were keen to know what transpire at the talks, the Muslims too will feel secure only if they have a member of their own community represented at the talks and he was fulfilling that role.
Meanwhile, in an on-flight interview with the Daily News on Saturday, Minister Prof. G.L. Peirirs heading the government delegation observed that both parties were keen to evolve a solid basis upon which a final solution could be hammered out, at the preliminary talks.
He also noted the value of lasting peace that could emerge out of the peace talks in terms of benefits to the country.
Prof. Peiris also disclosed that while today’s talks would focus on drawing up an agenda on the topics for future discussions it would also dwell on the steps by which the Ceasefire Agreement could be taken forward.
He said that as talks progress issues of violations of human rights including proscription of child soldiers would be included in the agenda while the subject of the Interim Administration will be taken up possibly at the next stage of the talks.
Meanwhile, at the recent talks held between Minister Rauff Hakeem and Anton Balasingham in London, it had been agreed by the latter that the issue of Muslim interests should be taken up at the peace talks. It was also agreed that a Muslim group be represented as a delegation at a later stage in the peace talks.
“This preliminary round is for confidence building”, Hakeem told the Daily News in Pattaya.
The two day preliminary round of negotiations between the Government and the LTTE would be preceded by an opening ceremony where the welcome address will be delivered by Ten Bunnag, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand.
Statements will also be made by Professor Minister G.L. Peiris on behalf of the Sri Lankan Government, Anton Balasingham on behalf of the LTTE and Vidar Helgesen on behalf of the Norwegian Government.
Erik Sotheim, Special Advisor to the Norwegian Foreign Ministry will play the role of moderator.