Tamil Tigers call for immediate truce talks

Kilinochchi, September 17:

The political leader of the Tamil Tiger rebels has called for immediate talks with Sri Lanka’s government to save a shaky ceasefire. Tamil Tiger political chief SP Thamilselvan said the rebel group was ready “even in the next minute” to begin talks with the government. The truce of 2002 has come under fresh strain since the assassination of the country’s foreign minister Lakshman Kadirgamar last month in an attack blamed by the government on Tamil rebels. “We are anxious to start talks immediately... even in the next minute,” Thamilselvan said in an interview at his political headquarters, 330 km north of the capital Colombo, last night. Peacebroker Norway has sought talks between the two sides in the wake of Kadirgamar’s assassination, which has stoked fears of a return to civil war in the Indian Ocean island nation.

Thamilselvan denied that the Tigers carried out the August 12 murder of Kadirgamar, an ethnic Tamil who was a fierce critic of the rebels, saying they had “nothing to gain by killing anyone.” He said the rebels had suggested an overseas venue for any future talks to safeguard the ceasefire. Earlier, the Tigers turned down the international airport as a venue after it was suggested as a possible neutral location for talks. Colombo has insisted that any discussions take place in Sri Lanka but the two sides have so far been unable to agree on a location. The focus of talks would be on how to preserve the ceasefire that ended decades of civil war which claimed 60,000 lives. They would be the first top-level discussions between the two sides since peace talks aimed collapsed in April 2003.

Ex-rebel killed

Colombo: Suspected Tamil Tiger rebels shot dead a former guerrilla in northern Sri Lanka, the military said on Saturday. Ratnam Sarvaloganathen, 46, was shot on Friday night in Vavuniya town, military spokesman Brig Daya Ratnayake said. Sarvaloganathan was previously a member of the Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front, an armed group that fought alongside the Tigers for a separate state for minority Tamils, he said. The Tiger’s spokesman Daya Master denied the rebels’ involvement in the killing. — AP