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 Post subject: Sri Lanka court blocks tsunami deal, tension mounts in north
 Post Posted: Sat Jul 16, 2005 1:33 am 
Sri Lanka court blocks tsunami deal, tension mounts in northeast

Copyright © 2005 Agence France Presse.
AFP via Yahoo
Fri Jul 15, 2005. 8:56 AM ET

Sri Lanka's Supreme Court has blocked a controversial deal with Tiger rebels to share billions of dollars in tsunami aid as a fragile truce came under intense pressure and more killings were reported in the island's restive east.

Chief Justice Sarath Silva said locating the headquarters of the proposed Post Tsunami Operational Management Structure (P-TOMS) in a rebel-held area was unacceptable as ordinary citizens would not have access to the region.

The proposed fund to which international donors were expected to contribute was also illegal, the judge held.

The chief justice ordered four crucial clauses in the P-TOMS agreement suspended until the conclusion of a petition against the deal. The next hearing was fixed for September 12.

Both Colombo and the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) had seen the agreement as a confidence-building measure that could possibly lead to the resumption of peace talks on hold since April 2003.

However, diplomats close to the peace process said the court decision had heightened tensions, especially in the island's eastern province where three more killings were reported Friday.

Police said they found three men shot dead in the eastern town of Akkaraipattau on Thursday night and believed they were victims of internecine clashes among rival Tiger factions.

The authorities had already sent hundreds of police reinforcements to the eastern region after troops shot dead a suspected Tamil rebel on Thursday evening, police and military officials said.

The Tigers were yet to respond to the court decision but on Friday they repeated a warning, first issued last month, that they would make their own security arrangements when travelling through government-held areas unless they were given stepped-up protection by the military.

"This, we fear, would push the ceasefire into a grave and complex situation," the Tigers said in the letter sent through Norwegian-led truce monitors.

The court ruling blocks the aid deal that was arranged by Sri Lanka's peace broker Norway, which has been trying to bring the rebels and the Colombo government back to the negotiating table they left in April 2003.

The Marxist JVP, or People's Liberation Front, challenged President Chandrika Kumaratunga's move last month after quitting her coalition government in protest.

The court held that the president had the right to enter into a deal with the Tigers, but that four clauses in the agreement went against the constitution.

Friday's ruling came a day after the government named Constitutional Affairs Minister D.E.W. Gunasekara as its nominee to be one of the three members of the P-TOMS governing body.

The so-called joint mechanism between the government and the rebels was yet to begin its work as the nomination of members by the Tigers and the country's second largest minority, the Muslims, was still awaited.

The custodian of the P-TOMS funds was going to be an international lender and the headquarters of the mechanism was to be in the town of Kilinochchi, which is also the political headquarters of the Tigers.

Sri Lanka's international donors had insisted on the joint mechanism so that they could channel aid to it rather than directly to the guerrillas.

The joint mechanism had been discussed since January in a bid to ensure that tsunami survivors in rebel-held areas received international help.

Some 31,000 people were killed and a million were made homeless in Sri Lanka by the December 26 tsunami. About two thirds of the damage was in the island's northeast, parts of which are dominated by the Tigers.

Copyright © 2005 Agence France Presse.

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