Tamil Tiger rebels threaten to pull out of Sri Lanka peace talks as 10 aid workers go missing
Shimali Senanayake in Colombo,
January 31st, 2006, 11:00 pm.
Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels on Tuesday threatened to pull out of
next months peace talks over the abduction of 10 Tamil aid workers in
the island's volatile east, officials said.
"It will damage the atmosphere of negotiations and make it difficult
to resume talks," said Daya Master, spokesman for the Tigers from the
rebel-held capital of Kilinochchi. "They should be released
immediately," Master said, blaming the abductions on para-militaries
supported by the Sri Lankan army. The military denies any involvement.
The Tigers' threat comes barely a week after Norway's top peace envoy
Erik Solheim broke an almost three year deadlock to resume stalled
peace talks between the government and the guerrillas amid fears that
the island was on the brink of war.
The Tamil Rehabilitation Organization or TRO, a registered charity in
Sri Lanka with alleged strong links to the Tigers said five among 15
of its members had been abducted by "unidentified gunmen," in the
island's restive eastern Batticaloa, about 150 kilo meters from the
capital Colombo, on Monday.
Less than a day later, the TRO reported that another group _ including
three pre-school volunteer teachers _ affiliated to their organization
had gone missing without a trace in the same area. "Under the
circumstances, we fear that the same fate has befallen these
humanitarian workers," said Arjunan Ethirveerasungham, the TRO's
project development manager. "There seems to be a campaign of terror
unleashed on TRO personnel in the northeast." He appealed to the Sri
Lankan government and the international community to speedily
investigate the abductions.
Earlier Tuesday, the United States embassy in Colombo, also urged
authorities to "rapidly investigate," the allegations, while appealing
to "all parties to exercise restraint and calm."
The kidnappings have been brought to the notice of President Mahinda
Rajapakse and there was concern if the incidents will jeopardize the
much-awaited negotiations to strengthen a fragile cease-fire.
European truce monitors said they had visited the scene but will
return again Wednesday to probe the incidents further.
"The LTTE has complained about these abductions and says this may
jeopardize the whole Geneva conference," said Hagrup Haukland, chief
of the 57-member mission. "We are very concerned as there are elements
trying to disrupt the peace process."
The Tigers have been fighting for a separate state since 1983 for the
island's ethnic Tamil minority, claiming discrimination by the
Sinhalese majority. Nearly 65,000 people were killed before Norway
brokered a truce in February 2002. Subsequent peace talks broke down a
year later amid rebel demands for wide autonomy in the Tamil-majority
north and east.
Discuss this story
Published: Tue Jan 31 14:22:43 EST 2006