Tamil Tiger negotiators return to Sri Lanka
Shimali Senanayake in Colombo,
March, 7th, 2006, 04:30 pm.
UPDATED: A top Tamil Tiger rebel delegation returned to Sri Lanka on Tuesda
11 days after they held talks with the Sri Lankan government in
Switzerland on how to save the island's fragile cease-fire, officials
on both sides said.
The return of the rebel negotiators to the island was delayed due to a seri
meetings and events the Tigers' participated in Switzerland and Norway
following the Feb. 22-23 talks, the first between the two sides in
three years, the officials said on condition of anonymity.
On arrival, at the Bandaranaike International Air port, the Tigers'
baggage was checked thoroughly for more than 2 1/2 hours, including
their hand luggage. Among the items scrutinized were some digital
cameras, torches and some catalogues, according to
air port officials.
Confusion ensued after the luggage was passed and custom officers
recalled the books from the delegation who were to travel by land to
the northern rebel-capital of Kilinochchi.
However, the catalogues were subsequently released.
"We have not detained anything," said V.S. Sudasinghe, deputy
director, customs. He declined to comment on what the books were about.
The Tigers have been previously accused of smuggling items into the
country on their return from overseas trips, a charge they deny.
On Monday, the Marxist People's Liberation Front or JVP, a key ally
of President Mahinda Rajapakse, demanded the government take a
tougher stand against the rebels and strengthen Sri Lanka's security forces
"While continuing dialogue with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam,
the government should ramp up its strengthening and training of the
armed forces so that the LTTE will realize that going back to war is
not an option for them," the Marxist JVP said, "The government of Sri
Lanka should speak softly and carry a big stick, which will greatly
negate the LTTE threat of a return to hostilities."
"We firmly believe that it is better to walk away from the negotiating
table without any progress being made, rather than agree to any
conditions that would be detrimental to the sovereignty of Sri Lanka,"
the JVP said.
The comments were made at a special meeting to brief major political
parties on the outcome of the Swiss talks.
The all Buddhist-monk National Heritage Party or JHU, have also
accused the government of caving in to rebel demands and urged
tougher talks when the parties meet again next month.
However, there was wide consensus that the process of negotiations
should continue, including from the main opposition United National
At the Swiss talks, the government pushed for a fresh truce agreement
to replace a Feb. 22, 2002 pact with the guerrillas. But the Tigers
insisted talks must be confined to the implementation of the existing
agreement. After tense discussions, the parties agreed to meet again
on April 19.
They also agreed to halt a spate of violence, that had pushed the
island to the edge of war. Norwegians peace brokers said the outcome
of the talks was better than expected but a lot depended on how the
parties implemented their promises before the next meet in Geneva.
Rebel leaders were scheduled to hold talks with Tiger chief Velupillai
Prabhakaran later Tuesday, rebel sources said.
Some six members of the rebel group who returned Tuesday were flown by
a government helicopter to the northern rebel-held capital of
Kilinochchi, while the remainder traveled by road, officials said.
Nearly 65,000 people were killed before Norway brokered a 2002
cease-fire. Subsequent peace talks broke down a year later amid rebel
demands for wide autonomy in the island's Tamil-majority north and the
ethnically mixed east.
Discuss this story
Published: Tue Mar 7 08:52:33 EST 2006