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 Post subject: Don't politicise tsunami aid, warns Sri Lanka Tamil leader
 Post Posted: Sun Jun 19, 2005 4:24 pm 
Don't politicise tsunami aid, warns Sri Lanka Tamil leader

Sun Jun 19, 1:14 AM ET
Copyright © 2005 Agence France Presse

Tamil Tiger rebels have asked Sri Lanka not to "politicise" tsunami relief, but said working with Colombo to distribute foreign aid could help build confidence among the warring parties.

The rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) said they invited Colombo to jointly distribute relief to survivors of the December 26 tsunami but regretted that six months later the government has still taken no action.

"It is purely for the administration of post-tsunami aid. If they try to introduce politics or politicise it, we are afraid the mechanism will get disrupted," Thamilselvan said in an interview with AFP.

"What we have proposed is only a mechanism to share the aid that has been flowing into the country," he said at the LTTE's peace secretariat in the rebel-held town of Kilinochchi, 330 kilometres (260 miles) north of Colombo.

He said the proposed joint mechanism, which President Chandrika Kumaratunga has backed publicly, was not a part of the Norwegian-backed peace process, but could be a useful confidence-building measure.

"This has no direct link to the peace process, but it can be a confidence- building measure to take the peace process forward."

He declined to say if an early establishment of the controversial "joint mechanism" will lead to the first ever face-to-face talks between them and Kumaratunga's new administration which came to power in April last year.

The Norwegian-brokered talks between Colombo and the LTTE remain on hold since April 2003 and Kumaratunga has accused the previous government of making too many concessions to the guerrillas who have been fighting for independence.

"As things stand today, only the facilitator (Norway) and the international community can vouchsafe for the conduct of the joint mechanism, and we will not be able to say anything about (chances of) direct talks in the near future."

President Kumaratunga's main Marxist coalition partner, the JVP or People's Liberation Front, quit the government Thursday protesting her plan to establish the joint mechanism with the guerrillas.

However, Thamilselvan said the proposed aid sharing plan was not the "real issue" that prompted the JVP to leave the 14-month old government.

"There have been differences (of opinion) from the very start and they can't say that this was the main issue... We do not want to isolate this as being the issue that precipitated the conflict between the JVP and the president."

"The joint mechanism is a very simple mechanism... It's not a political solution."

The JVP had argued the joint mechanism would be a stepping stone for a separate state the guerrillas had been fighting for till they entered an Oslo-arranged truce in February 2002 and opened negotiations.

Norway's deputy foreign minister Vidar Helgesen is expected to arrive in Sri Lanka Monday in a fresh bid to jumpstart the moribund peace process, diplomatic sources said.

Helgesen's visit comes in the wake of Kumaratunga vowing to go ahead with the proposed mechanism to work together with the guerrillas in ensuring people in rebel-held areas receive aid.

The government needs the LTTE's agreement to carry out work here or anywhere else in the island's northeast where they dominate.

The northeast was the worst hit in the tsunami that killed nearly 31,000 people in this country of 19.5 million people.

Thamilselvan said most of those affected in rebel-held areas were already refugees as a result of decades of fighting and whatever they saved since the truce was lost in the giant waves that lashed the island.

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