|Sri Lanka Pursues Power-Sharing, Bans Tamil Tigers|
|Thursday, 08 January 2009|
By Jay Shankar
Bloomberg -- Sri Lanka will pursue its plan for devolving power in regions previously controlled by Tamil rebels after renewing a ban on the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, effectively ruling out new peace talks with the group.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Cabinet will “take a decision on what the political solution to end the conflict will be” once an all-party committee presents draft proposals for power-sharing, Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, the minister for media and information, said in an interview in the capital, Colombo.
The army is advancing on the last bases held by the LTTE in the northeast of the country after capturing its political headquarters at Kilinochchi on Jan. 2. The Tamil Tigers have been fighting for 26 years for a separate homeland in the South Asian island nation.
Troops are attacking the LTTE from the north and south of Elephant Pass, the strategic causeway to the Jaffna Peninsula, and today captured the town of Pallai, the Defense Ministry said. Rebels had positioned heavy artillery guns in the town, which lies on the main A-9 highway north of the pass, the ministry said.
The LTTE was banned for “unlawfully trying to establish a separate sovereign state” in the northern and eastern provinces and not allowing civilians trapped on the battlefield to return to government-controlled regions, the government said yesterday.
Rajapaksa’s government ended a 2002 cease-fire with the Tamil Tigers a year ago and began military operations to capture their bases in the north. The group has disregarded repeated requests to end terrorism, lay down its arms and “participate in the democratic process,” the government said yesterday.
A political settlement would involve both devolution and sharing of power with the local administration in Tamil- dominated areas in the north and east, Tissa Vitharana, chairman of the All Party Representative Committee drawing up the plan, said in an interview
“The proposals are in the final stages and 90 percent of it is already done,” he said. “There are 13 parties involved in the discussions.”
The government says such a settlement should be based on a 1987 constitutional amendment on power sharing.
The amendment, which came out of a peace accord with India, established provincial councils to assume some of the central government’s role. The council for the Tamil-speaking north-eastern province didn’t function because of the conflict and was suspended in 1990.
The LTTE rejected the amendment in 1988, saying the proposal was meaningless because the national Parliament retained the power to legislate on matters allocated to provincial authorities.
The main opposition United National Party and the People’s Liberation Front are boycotting the talks of the All Party Representative Committee that was constituted in 2006.
There is a consensus emerging on the final issues and parties that have so far not participated may join in before the final agreement, Vitharana said.
The LTTE hasn’t commented on yesterday’s decision to ban the group. The fall of the Kilinochchi headquarters on Jan. 2 was a blow, N. Nadesan, the LTTE’s political head, said in an interview with TamilNet two days ago.
“With the resolute backing of our people and the moral support base of the global Tamil community, we are determined to overcome the current challenges,” he said.
The rebels lost control of Eastern Province in July 2007 and the government held provincial elections in the region in May last year. Rajapaksa’s party won most seats with support from an LTTE breakaway faction.
About 50,000 soldiers are now advancing toward Mullaitivu town in the northeast. Soldiers are operating on four fronts, including Paranthan and Mankulam, Udaya Nanayakkara, a military spokesman, said in an interview.
“The army has to negotiate jungle terrain where the top leaders of the LTTE are hiding in well fortified bunkers,” he said. “They are hiding in different places in the jungle.”
Since the cease-fire ended last year, the army has captured 3,000 square kilometers of area from the rebels and seized more than 20 strategic towns, Nanayakkara said. Last year, 1,300 soldiers were killed and the fighting claimed the lives of at least 13,000 LTTE members.
Sri Lanka is seeking $1.8 billion in aid and investment in the next four years to meet its pledge to rebuild the Eastern Province and encourage investment and tourism in a region that has a 462-kilometer (287-mile) coastline of white sands.
“The Northern Province also needs schools, hospitals, good roads and other infrastructure,” Yapa said. Development of the region will be a top priority once the military achieves its objectives, he added.
“There is no shortage of funds as the economy has grown the rate of 6 percent over the last three to four years,” Yapa said. “We can go on fighting.”
Last Updated: January 8, 2009
|Last Updated ( Friday, 14 August 2009 )|
|< Prev||Next >|