Sri Lanka peace hopes deadlocked amid uncertainty and fear
Thu December 2, 2004 20:35 EST .
SHIMALI SENANAYAKE - Associated Press Writer - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) Hopes to revive Sri Lanka - 's stalled peace talks suffered a blow this week with both the government and Tamil rebels failing to agree on the structure of possible renewed negotiations amid growing fears of a resurgence of war. The Tigers began fighting two decades ago to create a separate state for Sri Lanka - 's 3.2 million Tamils, accusing the country's 14 million Sinhalese of discrimination.
The war left 65,000 people dead before a 2002 cease-fire between the government and the rebels took hold. But peace talks have been frozen since April last year, and stubbornness on both sides has prevented a return to the negotiating table.
The rebels' chief said last week that unless talks resume immediately based on their controversial self-rule proposal which calls for a largely independent territory for Tamils the insurgents would resume their ``freedom struggle.''
The government rebuffed the threat, saying Wednesday talks must also involve ``exploring a permanent settlement,'' along the lines of a federal solution.
Norway, which helped brokered the truce two years ago, sent its ambassador to Sri Lanka - , Hans Brattskar, to rebel-held territory Thursday for talks with S.P. Thamilselvan, the rebels' political chief. He was expected to hold talks Friday with Jayantha Dhanapala, the head of the government body handling the peace process.
Jehan Perera, a political analyst of the independent National peace Council said the Tigers' may be refusing to budge from their demands for the talks because they don't feel totally secure in the island's east where a top rebel commander broke ranks in March and still continues sporadic attacks.
``They (Tamil rebels) would prefer to get the eastern situation under control prior to asserting political control,'' he said.
Two people were killed earlier this week in volatile eastern Sri Lanka - , adding to scores of others killed since the split.
Perera said the government on the other hand was ``unwilling to use up its political capital to push for a compromise but prefers to push for narrow political gain.''
Sri Lanka - 's main coalition partner, a Marxist party, has threatened to pull out of the government if peace talks start on the rebels' proposal.
But how long the stalemate can survive looks increasingly uncertain.
``If the two parties don't get back to talks, it could well be the end of the present phase of the peace process,'' Loganathen said.
Published: Fri Dec 3 08:13:39 EST 2004