Tamil Tigers Warn Over Aid Delay

by Ethirajan Anbarasan

"With the donor conference scheduled for next week, we see this as a ploy by the president to deceive the international community," Mr Thamilselvan said in the interview.

Tamil rebels in Sri Lanka have said any further delay in distributing aid to tsunami-hit Tamil areas will have serious implications for peace moves.

They blamed President Kumaratunga for the hold-up in establishing a so-called "joint mechanism" to share out aid.

Mrs Kumaratunga was trying to deceive the international community, senior rebel SP Thamilselvan said. He did not say what action the rebels might take.

Tsunami survivors in the north and east are still waiting for aid

Peace talks between the rebels and the government stalled in April 2003.

Last week, Mrs Kumaratunga pledged to strike a deal with the rebels to distribute tsunami aid even if it risked bringing down her government.

'Ploy'

Mr Thamilselvan, the leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam's political wing, said the president had squandered opportunities to involve the main opposition United National Party (UNP) in negotiations over the joint mechanism.

She now blamed her political rivals as well her own coalition partners, such as the hardline Marxist People's Liberation Front (JVP), for the deadlock, he told the BBC's Tamil service on Sunday.

"With the donor conference scheduled for next week, we see this as a ploy by the president to deceive the international community," Mr Thamilselvan said in the interview.

If the government had been sincere, it could have formed the joint mechanism soon after the tsunami last December and helped bring relief to thousands of Tamil people, he added.

The Tamil Tigers say they need at least $1bn to reconstruct tsunami-affected areas in the north and the east where they control territory.

'Unacceptable'

President Kumaratunga has been trying to establish a consensus among major Sri Lankan political parties for the plan. So far, the efforts have been unsuccessful.

The JVP, one of the main coalition partners in the ruling United People's Front Alliance (UPFA), has threatened to pull out if the government agrees to share the aid with the rebels.

Instead, it wants the programmes to be handled directly by other Tamil political parties or by the government itself.

Mr Thamilselvan said the president had destabilised the peace process by dismissing the previous UNP-led government and joining hands with the JVP.

"Now she blames the JVP for the deadlock which we consider unacceptable."

He warned that Tamil people were losing patience with the Sri Lankan government and the rebel leadership could be forced to taking decisive action very soon.

However, he did not specify whether that would mean the end of the ceasefire agreement, signed between the rebels and the government in February 2002.

BBC Tamil service

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Posted May 9, 2005