|Sri Lanka rebels reject devolution plan|
|Monday, 02 June 2008|
Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels condemned government moves to devolve more power to the north and east as they reported killing 31 troops in fresh fighting, according to a pro-rebel website on Saturday.
The head of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam's (LTTE) political wing, B Nadesan, said the plan under which the government recently held local elections in former rebel-held areas contained "no basis for a settlement".
"Recognition of Tamil sovereignty and right to self-determination are key issues in creating a climate for a negotiated settlement," he told Tamilnet.com in an interview.He also accused Colombo of blocking peacebroker Norway from meeting LTTE leaders by refusing to provide access to rebel-held areas. The defence ministry bars media, aid workers and diplomats from travelling to rebel-held areas, citing safety concerns.Sri Lanka's main financial backers - the United States, Japan, the European Union and Norway - should keep up their peace-building work, Nadesan said, urging Colombo to allow diplomats to meet LTTE representatives.His statements came as a senior Sri Lankan official accused the LTTE of showing no signs of wanting peace."We are looking for a negotiated end to this conflict... so far they have shown no inclination to enter into any constructive dialogue," Palitha Kohona, a secretary with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said on the sidelines of a security summit in Singapore."The LTTE is free to come back to the negotiating table but... must do so genuinely with a commitment to negotiating a sustainable peace and for that it must also leave aside its weaponry," he said.
Despite rebel opposition, Colombo has been moving ahead to devolve more power to Tamil regions in the Sinhalese-majority island.The Tigers launched their battle for a separate Tamil state in 1972 in the north and east, and the conflict has killed tens of thousands of people.Fighting has escalated sharply since the government exited from a Norwegian brokered ceasefire in January, believing it could crush the rebels militarily.After ejecting the LTTE from its eastern bastion last July, the government held polls on May 10 to allow residents to elect their own representatives to run the local administration.The polls were part of a limited devolution plan put forward in January that the government has described as a way to resolve Tamil complaints of domination by the Sinhalese-led central government and as a step toward ending the war.
The government has pledged to bring development and devolution to areas "liberated" by government forces. However critics say the plan does not offer enough autonomy to the areas as it even allowed the government to pick the east's chief minister.The LTTE political chief said the Tamils have no interest in Colombo's devolution plans and accused President Mahinda Rajapakse of "paying lip service" to a political solution while pursuing war.
He also dismissed Colombo's charges that the LTTE were behind a string of bomb attacks that killed at least 32 people and injured more than 100 this month.Meanwhile, the Tigers said they repelled an army advance into rebel-held areas of Vavuniya and Mannar on Friday, killing 31 troops and wounding at least 52 in several clashes, Tamilnet.com said.However, the defence ministry denied the rebel claims, saying 26 rebels and nine soldiers died during fighting across Jaffna, Vavuniya, Mannar and Weli Oya on Friday.Fighting is now centred around the north as government troops try to regain vast swathes of land under rebel control.Friday's fighting raised to 3,980 the number of rebels the government says it has killed since January. The ministry says 329 soldiers have died over the same period.
Rajapakse has said he plans to conduct local polls and devolve power to people in the north once troops regain control of that region.
(Courtesy : Sydney Morning Herald )
|Last Updated ( Monday, 02 February 2009 )|
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