Sri Lanka decides not to ban Tamil Tigers, but promises to enforce anti-terror law
Wed December 6, 2006 07:57 EST .
BHARATHA MALLAWARACHI - Associated Press Writer - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) Sri Lanka - 's government on Wednesday decided not to ban the separatist Tamil Tiger rebels, but said it would enforce more strictly a tough anti-terrorism law to help fight terror threats.
The government's decision came after a suspected rebel suicide bomber targeted the country's defense secretary last week, topping a year of violence that has killed more than 3,500 people.
``The Cabinet decided to introduce new regulations as it felt that existing regulations are not sufficient to deal with the terrorist activities faced today,'' Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake told reporters.
The current Prevention of Terrorism Act provides state security forces with sweeping powers to detain anyone without a warrant for six months, raid any home, structure and even demolish properties considered a threat to national security.
This will be strictly enforced because terrorist activities have increased, Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva said.
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam who say they are fighting on behalf of the country's 3.1 million ethnic Tamil minority are banned in the United States, Britain, Canada, EU and neighboring India.
The rebels' supporters had warned that a ban would effectively scupper a peace process that has already come under increasing strain amid a spike in violence this year.
The new regulations prohibit providing information detrimental to national security to any person engaged in terrorism, or involvement with such people. Violators can be imprisoned for up to 20 years.
``These regulations will no way obstruct the resumption of peace process. We hope that the LTTE at least will now try to move out of these definitions and come back to the table,'' Foreign Affairs Minister Mangala Samaraweera said.
The Cabinet met Wednesday for an extraordinary meeting to discuss whether to re-impose a ban on the Tigers following the suicide bomb blast on Friday that killed three people, including the bomber, and wounded another 14. It is thought the target of the attack was Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse, who is also the president's brother. The government has blamed the rebels, who are known for using suicide bombers in attacks against the government.
Separately on Wednesday, a bomb blast blamed on the rebels killed two Tamil civilians, wounded three others in the volatile north, the military said.
The government first banned the LTTE in 1998 after the rebels exploded a truck bomb, badly damaging the Temple of Buddha's Tooth relic, a sacred place for the island's predominantly Buddhist majority.
It lifted the ban in September 2002 as part of confidence-building measures after the two sides signed a Norway-brokered cease-fire in February that year.
Norwegian peace envoy Jon Hanssen-Bauer had planned to travel to the northern rebel stronghold of Kilinochchi on Monday to discuss the faltering peace process, but delayed the trip on the request of the government until after Wednesday's Cabinet meeting.
The rebels have fought the government since 1983 to carve out a separate state for ethnic minority Tamils, citing discrimination by the majority Sinhalese. More than 65,000 people were killed before the cease-fire.
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Published: Wed Dec 6 08:27:56 EST 2006