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SL Govt accepts LTTE's talks offer

Sri Lankan Govt has given its nod for talks despite suspicion over Tigers real motive, writes PK Balachandran.

india Updated: Aug 13, 2006 17:01 IST

In a surprising move last Friday, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) sent a message to the Sri Lankan government seeking unconditional peace talks.

The government responded immediately and positively, even as it suspected that the offer of talks might be LTTE's way of getting a breather in the on-going war, and buying time to recoup its military strength.

The Director General of the Government Peace Secretariat, Dr Palitha Kohona, told Hindustan Times on Sunday, that he received a message from the Head of the LTTE's Peace Secretariat, S Puleedevan, through the Nordic truce monitors, saying that the LTTE was keen on immediate and unconditional talks to resolve the current conflict.

"I replied that we were ready for talks immediately," Dr Kohona said.

" Puleedevan wanted to know if the government had any conditions. I said that there were no conditions, and quoted what the President had always been saying, that we were ready for unconditional talks," he added.

But there had been no response to this from the LTTE till Sunday morning, Kohona added.

Asked if the government's offer of talks stood even after the assassination of the Deputy Director General of the government Peace Secretariat, Kethesh Loganathan, by the LTTE in Colombo on Saturday, he said: " Yes, indeed. The LTTE is a murderous group. But the problem is not just the LTTE. There is a larger problem, the problem of the Tamil people, which needs to be resolved and that can be done only through negotiations."

Ploy to buy time

The government's Defence Spokesman Keheliya Rambukwela said that given the past conduct of the LTTE, the offer of talks in the midst of hostilities could well be a ploy to soften the opposition and buy time for a military build up.

He said that the recent military operations had put the LTTE in a tight spot, and that it seemed to need a breather. Hence a request for a let up.

The LTTE had failed to get into Jaffna, through Muhamalai, Kayts and Mandaitivu, despite putting its best men and material including heavy artillery, he said.

It had lost 200 cadres and 300 had been wounded. The Security Forces, on the other hand, lost 23 men, including four officers, Rambukwela said.

However, the government was prepared to go for talks at any time, and the venue was already there at Geneva, he pointed out.

"We can have the talks tomorrow or the day after, if the LTTE is willing and the logistics can be worked out."

The government had been saying all along that it was ready to go for a second round of talks at Geneva, but it was the LTTE which , was playing truant, he pointed out.

National security only constraint

Rambukwela said that the country had only one constraint - national security. There could be no talks at the cost of national security, he asserted.

He felt that the LTTE was the world's most ruthless terrorist group bent on separatism. Terrorism, he added, could not be contained by devolution of power or sharing power. It had to be dealt with separately in appropriate ways, he argued.

Rambukwela then went on to give examples from India, which, while being the world's largest democracy with a system of power sharing, was also faced with separatism and terrorism.

He cited Kashmir and the recent multiple blasts in Mumbai as illustrations.

When asked why then the government of Sri Lanka was saying it was ready to talk to the LTTE at any time and any place, he retorted: "What else can we do?"

JVP opposes peace talks

Meanwhile, the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), one of the key allies of the Mahinda Rajapaksa government, said that it was against peace talks with the LTTE.

It also wanted the peace facilitator Norway, out.

In an interview to the state-owned Sunday Observer the head of the JVP's international affairs department Vijitha Herath MP, said that the LTTE was wedded to the concept of an independent "Tamil Eelam", and this idea, he added, should be suppressed if peace was to be attained.

"If we suppress this idea only we can find a solution to the North and East. They (the LTTE) are a hindrance to the peace. The LTTE must be defeated militarily," Herath said.

First Published: Aug 13, 2006 13:28 IST