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Ethnic war in Sri Lanka: Government's peace plan grounded

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July 2, 2000

 

COLOMBO, JULY 1 (AP) - A Norwegian peace initiative to end the 17-year-old civil war has failed to take off with Tamil Tiger rebels out rightly rejecting the government's autonomy offer.

 

On Friday, the rebels dismissed the government peace plan as "ludicrous" and vowed to continue its violent campaign for a separate Tamil homeland.

 

On Saturday, a mainstream Tamil political party, the Tamil United Liberation Front, said it will also not support the peace plan until the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam accepted it.

 

The government is discussing a new constitution with the main opposition United National Party that would offer greater autonomy to the provinces, including the Tamil dominated north and east.

  

It hopes to win the support of moderate Tamils and marginalize the LTTE. "Let us understand one fact of life in Sri Lanka. Without the LTTE, there can be no peace in this country," said Veerasingham Anandasangaree, the TULF vice president. "So if you are serious about ending the conflict and bring peace, one has to consider the Tigers first."

  

Anandasangaree's stand was supported by N. Srikantha, leader of another Tamil party. "Whether  one likes it or not, the LTTE cannot be wished away," said Srikantha of the Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization.

  

TamilNet, a website that highlights the Tamil nationalist perspective on war, quoted top rebel theoretician Anton Balasingham as saying that the government's devolution proposals are "unacceptable" as they "failed to address the national aspirations of the Tamil people."

  

The LTTE says that only a separate homeland will solve their problems. "The LTTE will not study or comment on any package or proposals that tends to ignore the key issues of self-determination

and nationhood of the Tamil people," Balasingham said.

 

He also rejected a government suggestion to the LTTE to disarm and join a proposed interim council to administer the north and east.

 

"I think the government is living in a fool's paradise. The LTTE controls more than 70 percent of the land mass of the Tamil homeland," he said.

 

The rebels are fighting for a homeland for the 3.2 million minority Tamils in the north and east. The militants claim that the Tamils are discriminated against by the majority Sinhalese, who

control the government and the military.

 

The LTTE's rejection of the peace plan came a day after Norway's special envoy Erik Solheim ended a four-day visit to Sri Lanka. Solheim had met with both government and opposition leaders.

 

Norway is trying to bring the government and rebels to the negotiating table after a gap of nearly five years.

 


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