Tamil politicians welcome Sri Lankan government's compromise
Fri July 30, 2004 01:41 EDT .
KRISHAN FRANCIS - Associated Press Writer - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) A Tamil Tiger-backed political party on Friday welcomed a government decision to negotiate a power-sharing deal offered by the rebels, in a major compromise that could revive stalled peace talks.
``This is a very welcome step,'' said Kanagalingam Sivajilingam of Tamil National Alliance, whose 22 lawmakers represent Tamil interests in the 225-seat Sri Lankan Parliament.
``Our party will fully back the government in its efforts,'' he said.
The Sri Lankan government on Thursday dropped its long-standing refusal to discuss the rebel proposals to form an autonomous interim authority in the war-affected northeast.
Jayantha Dhanapala, a top official handling the government's peace efforts, said that President Chandrika Kumaratunga was willing to discuss the rebel blueprint, along with the government's own proposals.
Kumaratunga's government had long said that such an autonomy arrangement eventually would lead to secession, and peace talks have been deadlocked over the issue.
Norway, which negotiated a February 2002 cease-fire, warned Wednesday that the long delay in resuming peace talks stalled since April 2003 could push the island nation back into war.
That warning appears to have worried the government.
``Thunder, lightning or rain, we are ready for negotiations,'' the state-run Daily News on Friday quoted government spokesman Mangala Samaraweera as saying.
The Daily News said the government has ``brushed aside speculation that the country was heading for another war and stressed that it was committed to an early resumption of peace talks with the LTT to achieve lasting peace and an end to ethnic strife.''
The Liberation Tigers of Tamileelam rebels launched a violent campaign in 1983 to carve out a separate state for ethnic minority Tamils, alleging discrimination at the hands of majority Sinhalese. About 65,000 people were killed before the Oslo-brokered truce leading to peace talks.
The Tigers withdrew from the talks in April 2003 demanding broad powers in an administration that could organize rehabilitation of the war-torn northeast, which they said had been neglected by the central government.
Published: Fri Jul 30 05:53:01 EDT 2004