Sri Lanka signs tsunami aid deal with Tamil Tigers

Associated Press

Colombo, June 24:

Sri Lanka’s government today signed a deal to share international tsunami aid with the Tamil Tiger rebels, officials said, despite bitter protests by critics who say it threatens the country’s sovereignty. MS Jayasinghe, secretary of the reconstruction ministry, signed the pact on

behalf of the government, and Norwegian peace brokers then took the document north to the rebel-held capital of Kilinochchi for the Tigers to sign, according to a top official involved in the signing. The official said he could not be quoted by name ahead of a formal announcement of the accord later today. Sri Lanka’s influential Buddhist clergy, a powerful Marxist party and other key critics say the deal raises the rebels’ legitimacy in the international

community, boosting their separatist agenda and undermining Sri Lanka’s sovereignty. The eight-page Post-Tsunami Operational Management Structure, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press, says the body will be made up of a three-tiered system of committees to review and approve projects in the Tamil-majority north and east. The parties are “resolved to work together in good faith and using their best efforts to deliver expeditious relief rehabilitation, reconstruction and development,” the document said.

The body aims to “facilitate and expedite the process of rebuilding the affected areas.” A representative from the government, Tigers and the Muslim minority will figure in the highest committee, which will be tasked with formulating policy for the equitable allocation and disbursement of funds. The signing came today despite protests by hundreds of Marxist demonstrators who marched near Parliament to demand that the aid-sharing plan be dropped. Police fired tear gas to disperse them, and two protesters were injured. More protests followed in front of the city’s port and at two universities.