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'PM's action irresponsible'

The decision by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to relinquish responsibility for the peace process had drawn fire in varied quarters.

A cross section of politicians and leading personalities interviewed by the Daily News were of the unanimous view that the Premier had acted without a sense of responsibility in reaching this decision.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe cannot shy away from the peace process and he should re-negotiate over the three Ministries with the President in order to bring the peace process back on track, V. Thirunavakarasu, an Executive Committee member of the New Left Front said yesterday.

"The Premier pledged to the nation upon arriving in the country from Washington that he will go forward with the peace process. So he cannot simply shy away from the peace process," he added.

Sihala Urumaya leader Thilak Karunaratne said Prime Minister Wickremesinghe cannot simply make a statement and withdraw from the peace process or thrust this on the President since he had compromised the security of the entire country through this move.

Karunaratne said the Prime Minister must be taken to courts if he withdraws from the peace process in an irresponsible manner after allowing the LTTE to expand in the North and East during the last two years.

The Prime Minister should re-establish the status-quo as at February 22, 2002 before thinking of handing over responsibility of the peace process to the President or any other person.

"Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has compromised the security of the entire country and should take the blame for creating a de-facto Tamil Eelam in the North East. So he cannot simply withdraw from the peace process by making a statement," he added.

Karunaratne also said Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe should take the responsibility for withdrawing from certain areas of High Security Zones and STF camps in the East.

The General Secretary of the Lanka Sama Samaja party Batty Weerakoon said that the country has just learnt of the Prime Minister's decision to the effect that he would not hold himself responsible for the further conduct of the peace process.

World renowned Sri Lankan cinema personality Dr. Lester James Peries, commenting on the position of Prime Minister Wickremesinghe for the peace process, said the Premier should seriously consider his stance at this juncture at a time the whole country is waiting in hope for peace.

"Peace is the most important thing for all of us. Peace should prevail in the country since it affects whatever we do. Therefore the main political parties should work together to achieve our long felt dream of an everlasting peace for this country," he said.

"However, the UNP politicians are of the view that the President has created the problem by taking over three key ministries under her. But what I believe is that these political issues should not be allowed to hamper the already fragile peace process," he added.

Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapakse responding to the Prime Minister's announcement asked the Prime Minister not to abrogate his responsibilities of the peace process for mere political gains.

"The Prime Minister had committed himself to continue the process. He cannot abrogate responsibility now for purpose of political power and ignore the mandate he was saying he had acted on," the Opposition Leader said in his personal website (www.mahindarajapaksa.com)

He said the Prime Minister as a responsible politician should continue with the peace process, adding that a large number of the MPs from both sides of the House want to see a "fruitful conclusion of the peace process".

"However the final solution to the ethnic problem has to be accepted by all parties. Therefore the Prime Minister and the President should continue the peace process in a responsible way," he said.

Rajapakse however charged that the Government had curtailed several people's rights in the last two years on the pretext of peace talks.

The Memorandum of Understanding between the Government and the LTTE had failed to protect the lives of the Muslims and members of rival Tamil groups in the North East, he said.

He refuted the Prime Minister's statement that he could not proceed with the peace efforts without having the defence portfolio, recalling that the President had pledged her support to a negotiated settlement.

The Opposition Leader maintained that the final solution to the ethnic conflict should receive the approval of the majority of the people and all political parties in the South. He reiterated that no one would be allowed to divide the country.

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