Sri Lanka bipartisan peace bid fails, opposition says

July 7, 2006 (AFP) – A fresh attempt to hammer out a bipartisan approach to Sri Lanka’s drawn out Tamil separatist conflict ended abruptly with the defection of an opposition legislator, officials said Friday. President Mahinda Rajapakse met with United National Party opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe Thursday evening to agree on a common approach to the festering conflict, but the initiative failed, an opposition spokesman said.

“The opposition leader did not know that even as they met, the government had secured the defection of one of his MPs,” United National Party MP Joseph Perera said. “So how can we work like this?”

“We cannot accept this double dealing and we cannot support the government anymore.”
Minutes before the meeting, Rajapakse gave a minister post to opposition legislator Susantha Punchinilame who had defected to the ruling party.

Analysts say a settlement with Tiger rebels in the decades old ethnic c conflict requires an amendment to the constitution and that would mean bipartisan support for the two thirds majority needed in parliameent.

The failed effort came as Sri Lanka’s political parties were under pressure from the island’s foreign backers to end the separatist co