Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka: Marxists oppose deal with rebels for tsunami aid distribution

News and Press Release
Originally published
Colombo (dpa) - A key Marxist party in the ruling United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) coalition Wednesday vowed to oppose plans to sign an agreement with Tamil rebels on post-tsunami aid distribution, even at the risk of the government collapsing. The party known as the JVP (People's Liberation Front) in a statement to Parliament warned that the proposed mechanism would lead to the recognition of a separate state for the rebels of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). ''We are prepared to take decisions with the country in the first place and the government in the backseat. We would like to inform you that we would take this bold decision for the sake of the country in the next few days,'' the JVP Parliamentary group leader Wimal Weerawansa said. His comments were seen as a veiled threat to quit the coalition government in which the JVP holds 39 of the 106 seats, in the 225-seat Parliament. The coalition currently has obtained the support of 10 other members from the opposition to ensure a majority in Parliament. President Kumaratunga who leads the UPFA has promised the international community and aid agencies that she was going ahead with the mechanism which is required to have a close coordination with Tamil rebels in distributing post-tsunami aid and carrying out rehabilitation work in the north and eastern parts of the country. But, the JVP has argued that only 49 of the 319 administrative areas affected in the north and eastern provinces are controlled by the rebels of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Norwegian peace brokers trying to get the government and the rebels to renew stalled talks believe that the mechanism would help closer cooperation between the two sides and prevent them drifting toward war. Norwegian ambassador in Colombo Hans Brattskar met Tuesday with rebel political-wing leader S.P. Thamilselvan to discuss the current situation and the proposal on the joint mechanism. In a separate development, more Buddhist monks join a fast unto death to protest government proposals to sign the joint mechanism agreement. One monk continued his protest for the third successive day in the central Kandy district, 117 kilometres east of the capital, while on group joined his fast from Colombo Wednesday. Tamil rebels have declared that the delay in establishing the mechanism was a threat to an ongoing cease-fire with the government. The truce has lasted for 38 months, despite a few serious incidents, but peace talks have been stalled since April 2003. Sri Lanka's 20-year-old ethnic war claimed over 69,000 lives and continues to claim lives despite the truce. Most of the recent deaths have been factional killings between Tamil groups including the LTTE and its rivals. During the truce, since February 2002, at least 350 persons have been killed. dpa ad tl
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