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 Post subject: Sri Lanka monk says no peace until top rebel dead
 Post Posted: Fri Feb 17, 2006 11:06 pm 
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Sri Lanka monk says no peace until top rebel dead

Copyright © 2006 ABC News Internet Ventures
Feb 17, 2006 — By Simon Gardner

COLOMBO (Reuters) A Buddhist monk in Sri Lanka, who heads a religious party opposed to a Tamil homeland in the north and east, says the country would be better off if the reclusive rebel leader of the Tamil Tigers were dead.

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Venerable Ellawala Medhananda, head of the National Heritage Party, or Jathika Hela Urumaya, said the government should be prepared to fight the rebels, led by Velupillai Prabhakaran, to the bitter end if peace talks in Switzerland next week fail.

"If Prabhakaran is dead, Sri Lanka is a better place," he told Reuters in an interview at a Buddhist center in the island's capital, Colombo. "He is the stumbling block to the peace process. We should take his influence out of society."

Medhanadna, a political ally of President Mahinda Rajapakse, said his sentiment did not contradict the tenets of peace and harmony for which Buddhism is known the world over.

"Even Buddhist monks can act in self-defense," said the 69-year-old, who became a monk at the age of 12 and enjoys a revered status in Sri Lanka, like other Buddhist monks.

"Buddhist monks (elsewhere) have learned fighting techniques like Kung Fu for their self defense. Therefore fighting for self defense is not against Buddhist principles," said Medhananda, wearing a saffron robe, glasses and close-cropped hair.

A policeman carrying an automatic rifle stood guard near a shrine and a sacred Buddhist Bo tree in a courtyard outside to protect the outspoken MP.

"We now face a terrorist problem. They are attacking us, so why can't we fight in self-defence?"

Like Rajapakse's former-militant Marxist allies, the Sinhalese nationalist JHU rejects the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam's (LTTE) calls for a separate homeland for minority Tamils in the north and east, and is opposed to rebel autonomy or separation from the island's Buddhist-majority south.

Medhananda does not expect to see much progress at talks in Switzerland on February 22-23, seen by many as a last chance to avoid a slide back to a civil war that killed more than 64,000 people up until a 2002 truce.

"I believe in a negotiated settlement, but unfortunately the LTTE doesn't," he said in his native Sinhala through a translator. "If they are willing to give up their homeland theory, and their struggle for a separate state, we are ready to devolve power as much as possible under a unitary constitution.

"If we fail to achieve peace through negotiations, if the LTTE commences attacks on public property and people again, the government is duty-bound to attack the terrorists and protect the innocent."

Sri Lanka's Buddhist monk party has nine seats in the 225-member parliament.


(Additional reporting by Ranga Sirilal)

Copyright 2006 Reuters News Service.
Copyright © 2006 ABC News Internet Ventures


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