Vol. 5 Num 382 Fri. June 24, 2005  

Lanka set to enter aid deal with Tigers
Marxists warn of protests

Sri Lanka is on the verge of clinching a deal with Tamil Tiger rebels on sharing foreign aid for post-tsunami reconstruction, official sources said yesterday, as Norway kept up shuttle diplomacy to save the faltering peace process.

Sources close to the government said the deal, seen as a prelude to saving Sri Lanka's peace bid, would "most likely" be signed today.

Norwegian diplomats here, meanwhile, made an unscheduled visit to the rebel-held town of Kilinochchi Thursday, a day after the guerrillas said that their talks with Oslo's deputy foreign minister Vidar Helgesen brought no results.

Details of the sudden visit by Norwegian diplomats were not immediately known but it came as a senior minister, Maithripala Sirisena, told parliament that the proposed joint mechanism with the Tigers will be debated in parliament Friday.

The government's Marxist ally, the JVP or People's Liberation Front, said it will launch peaceful demonstrations across the country from Friday to block the implementation of the joint mechanism.

The JVP quit the coalition government last week in protest but has not joined other opposition parties to bring the administration down.

"We will mobilise, students, workers and intellectuals to stage peaceful demonstrations until we block the joint mechanism," JVP leader Somawansa Amarasinghe told reporters here.

He said they were told in parliament Thursday that the controversial deal will be signed by the government Friday despite their protests.

"From tomorrow there will be a new political equation in the country," Amarasinghe said.

Minister Sirisena said the joint mechanism will be discussed in parliament Friday as an "adjournment debate", which means there will be no vote on it and the discussion will remain only a matter of academic interest.

Norway's Helgesen held 90 minutes of talks with Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) political wing leader S. P. Thamilselvan on the joint mechanism, but there was no announcement on any deal.

Thamilselvan told reporters that Wednesday's meeting failed to make any progress towards establishing the mechanism demanded by the international donors to release large amounts of aid for tsunami survivors.