On 23 February 2002 a formal ceasefire agreement was signed, with Norwegian facilitation, between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, LTTE, and the Sri Lankan Government. Despite mounting political difficulties on the island, the ceasefire has continued to hold. On 4 November 2003, President Kumaratunga relieved three senior government ministers of office and personally assumed their powers. President Kumaratunga was reportedly concerned about LTTE proposals on an interim administration for the north and east of the country, and claimed that the government, led by Prime Minister Wickramasinghe, was making too many concessions. She announced that talks with the LTTE had been postponed indefinitely. A state of emergency was declared and parliament was prorogued for two weeks. Although Mrs. Kumaratunga holds the office of president, her party constitutes the official opposition, having lost parliamentary elections to Prime Minister Wickramasinghe two years ago.
The prime minister reportedly rejected as unworkable a power sharing offer from the president. On 8 February 2004, President Kumaratunga dissolved parliament and called for elections to be held on 2 April, nearly four years ahead of schedule. It is unlikely that there will be a resolution of these differences until after the elections. There are ongoing concerns that a prolonged political confrontation between the prime minister and the president could ultimately jeopardise the peace process with the LTTE. However, the LTTE have continued to reaffirm their commitment to the peace process.
On 4 November, the Presidency of the European Union, in conjunction with the European Commission, issued a statement urging the parties involved to continue to work together in support of a negotiated political solution. On 14 November 2003, Norway announced the suspension of its involvement in the peace process until such time as the political crisis is resolved. From 24 to 27 November 2003, EU External Relations Commissioner Mr. Chris Patten visited Sri Lanka where he held meetings with both government representatives and the LTTE. Commissioner Patten urged both sides to resume the peace process and warned against the extremely negative consequences that a resumption of violence could bring.
A co-chairs conference is due to take place in Washington on 17 February 2004, as a follow-up to the June 2003 Tokyo donor's conference on Sri Lanka. The co-chairs consist of the EU, Japan, the US, and Norway, the last in view of its position as facilitator of the peace process. Co-chairs are responsible for monitoring progress towards peace and advising on actions by the donor community. Through various channels, the Government will continue to take all appropriate opportunities to encourage the parties concerned to bring the peace process to an early, successful conclusion.