Lankan Marxists may quit coalition

Agence France Presse

Colombo, June 8:

Sri Lanka’s Marxists, key coalition partners of President Chandrika Kumaratunga, announced today they will block her plan to share tsunami aid with Tamil Tiger rebels even if the move leads to a collapse of government.

The Marxist JVP, or People’s Liberation Front, in its first policy announcement in parliament over the controversial aid-sharing deal with Tiger guerrillas, said it was willing to sacrifice the government. JVP leader Wimal Weerawansa told the assembly that the decision to enter into a deal with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) had been taken by Kumaratunga without consulting coalition partners. “The country needs a government to defeat separatism, not to nourish it,” Weerawansa said.

“In the next few days we will announce our decision to save the country first. The government comes later.” Weerawansa slammed Kumaratunga’s “dictatorial attitude” and vowed to defeat her moves even as she herself pledged to press ahead with the proposed plan that has been widely endorsed by the international donor community. The JVP argues that the proposed deal with the Tigers could be a stepping stone for a separate state the guerrillas have sought for decades. The Tigers in December 2002 announced their willingness to settle for a federal set-up but talks brokered by Norway remain inconclusive. The JVP maintains that the Tigers have not abandoned their separatist designs. JVP-backed Buddhist monks staged a demonstration outside the main railway station here today to press the government to roll back its plan for sharing tsunami aid with the Tigers.

Kumaratunga’s government has a five-seat majority in the 225-member parliament and depends on the 39 votes of the JVP. International donors have called for a joint mechanism to distribute billions of dollars in aid equitably in rebel-held and government areas.