Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka says may scrap tattered truce with rebels

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By Simon Gardner

COLOMBO, May 31 (Reuters) - Sri Lanka's government may scrap what is left of a "flawed" 2002 ceasefire pact with the Tamil Tigers within weeks, the island's defence spokesman said on Thursday, a move analysts fear could escalate renewed civil war.

Defence spokesman and government minister Keheliya Rambukwella said the Norwegian-brokered truce, which now holds only on paper after breaking down on the ground last year, no longer reflected reality, citing Tamil Tiger ambushes and attacks on security forces.

The military and rebels have been locked in near daily skirmishes, land and sea battles for months. An estimated 4,000 people have been killed since last year alone.

"The government may abrogate it... due to the fact that the ground reality does not go in parallel with the CFA (Ceasefire Agreement)," Rambukwella told Reuters. "It is flawed."

"It's time that either you make certain amendments, or abrogate it."

The government said earlier this month it had asked Norway, brought into Sri Lanka's now battered peace process by a previous administration because of perceived neutrality, to review the peace pact.

"We told the Norwegians to look at it. If they're not looking at it, it's up to the government now to take stock of affairs and suggest certain amendments to make it more realistic, or else face the reality," Rambukwella added.

A Norwegian embassy official said the mission had not been formally approached to review the truce pact.

"The LTTE is not coming out with it because they feel that if we abrogate it, then they could fly on high ground saying that the government abrogated the CFA," Rambukwella said.

The Tigers have repeatedly refused to consider any amendments to the truce.

Analysts say both sides have long avoided formally pulling out of the deal for fear of international criticism and handing the other side a propaganda victory.

The government has long argued the ceasefire was too soft on the Tigers, and have since captured large areas in the island's east which belonged to the rebels under the terms of the agreement. It has also vowed to destroy the Tigers militarily.

"I think (abrogating) is a high risk strategy," said Rohan Edrisinha of non-partisan think-tank the Centre for Policy Alternatives.

"I think it's going to lead to more violence and more suffering, because any sort of restraint the sides might feel existed due to the ceasefire agreement will cease to exist."

"This raises concerns about the government's strategy, about its sensibility to the international community, as well as about the well-being of Tamils."

Analysts say there is no clear winner on the horizon and fear a protracted conflict that has killed nearly 70,000 people since 1983 could rumble on for years.

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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