Chandrika isolated in tsunami aid deal crisis

Associated Press

Colombo, May 7:

Sri Lanka’s president has failed to win support from a key coalition partner to set up a joint group with Tamil Tiger rebels to distribute foreign aid to tsunami victims in Tamil-majority areas, a party official said today.

Meanwhile, Sri Lankan soldiers recovered two bodies believed to be Tamil Tiger intelligence operatives killed in a clash with a renegade rebel faction, a spokesman said.

President Chandrika Kumaratunga met late yesterday with the Marxist People’s Liberation Front.

The Front is her party’s main partner in the country’s governing coalition.

It has threatened to withdraw from the government if Kumaratunga sets up a joint aid-distribution group with the guerrillas.

The Marxist party has claimed that setting up a joint group would help the rebels attain their goal of a separate Tamil state.

It also said they would hold more talks with Kumaratunga to try and reach a compromise, an official said on condition of anonymity.

The Marxist party has 39 seats in the country’s 225-member Parliament.

If deprived of the Marxist party’s support, Kumaratunga’s government could collapse.

The government-rebel peace talks have also stalled over differences on how much power should be devolved to Sri Lanka’s Tamil-majority north and east.

The December 26 Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 killed at least 31,000 people in Sri Lanka, and left over a million homeless.

The hardest-hit areas were in the country’s northeast, some of which is controlled by the Tamil Tigers.

Journo’s murder sparks furore

JAFFNA: Hundreds of Tamils protested in northern Sri Lanka on Saturday to condemn the abduction and killing of a prominent journalist and demanded authorities quickly arrest and punish his killers. Dharmeratnam Sivaram, 46, the editor of the pro-rebel TamilNet Web site and a columnist for two daily newspapers, was abducted by four unidentified men in the capital, Colombo, late last month. His bullet-riddled body was found near the country’s Parliament, but police have made no arrests. — AP