Chandrika to go ahead with aid deal with Tigers

Associated Press

Colombo, June 15:

Sri Lanka’s president vowed today to go ahead with a deal to share tsunami aid with the Tamil Tigers, despite a threat by a ruling coalition partner to leave the government at midnight if she does not back down.

However, President Chandrika Kumaratunga has not set a date for signing the pact, a top aide said, though he denied it would happen in the next day or two.

The Tigers demand a say in how aid gets distributed in the Tamil-majority north and east following the December 26 tsunami. The rebel group has complained that assistance has not reached Tamil areas fast enough.

Kumaratunga has promoted her aid-sharing plan as a golden opportunity to forge peace with the guerrillas. But the island’s powerful monks have joined members of the Marxist People’s Liberation Front in protesting the deal, saying it threatens the country’s sovereignty and will help the Tigers in their quest to carve out a separate state.

The Marxists hold 39 crucial seats in Kumaratunga’s 119-seat majority in the 225-member Parliament. If they pull out of the ruling coalition, Kumaratunga’s party will be reduced to a minority.