India backs Chandrika’s aid deal with Tigers

Agence France Presse

Colombo, June 5:

Sri Lanka’s hopes of reviving peace talks with Tiger rebels were raised after India this week gave its backing to a controversial aid-sharing deal with the guerrillas, a senior diplomat and analysts said today. President Chandrika Kumaratunga last week secured the support India for a deal with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who have been outlawed in India since 1992 for their role in the assassination of former premier Rajiv Gandhi. New Delhi’s support, announced in a joint statement on Friday, capped months of effort by Kumaratunga to line up billions of dollars in international donor aid to rebuild the country after the December 26 tsunamis. Kumaratunga is now expected to tackle opposition from her main coalition ally to the aid deal which analysts say will assure the rebels the government is committed to rebuilding the country and pursuing peace talks.

“India, the US and Europe support it, the IMF and World Bank and other lending agencies support it, so she can’t retract now,” said political analyst Harry Gunatillake, former air force chief. “This is the best thing that can happen.” The aid deal would bring the government and rebels into close cooperation on rebuilding, including from the decades of civil war that has

left tens of thousands dead, and act as a spur to peace talks brokered by Norway that have been stalled since April 2003, a senior Asian diplomat said. Gunatillake also noted Kumaratunga was now in a position to ignore opposition from her coalition ally the Marxist JVP (People’s Liberation Front), to the tsunami aid deal with the rebels because of the overwhelming backing from others in parliament and the international community. Press reports said the JVP had threatened to sit in the opposition if Kumaratunga went ahead with the deal, called a joint mechanism. “This won’t lead to the collapse of the government because the others (opposition parties) will have to support her given their commitment to the joint mechanism,” Gunatillake said. Tamil politician Dharmalingam Sithadthan said Kumaratunga should be able to revive the peace process. “It is now easy for Chandrika to take the peace process forward with the blessings of India too,” Sithadthan said.

Monks oppose prez’s move

COLOMBO: A party backed by Sri Lanka’s influential Buddhist monks vowed on Sunday to block a government plan to share tsunami aid with the Tigers. The National Heritage Party fears that letting the Tigers distribute aid could boost their effort to establish a separate state for the Tamils. “We don’t have guns ... but we are ready to sacrifice our lives to ensure that our country is protected,” said the party spokesmanGalagodaatte Gna-nasara. — AP