Vol. 5 Num 558 Wed. December 21, 2005  

Mediators urge Tigers to end violence
LTTE ally forces suspension of parliament

The co-chairs of a group monitoring Sri Lanka's peace process called on Monday on the island's Tamil Tiger rebels to put an immediate end to violence, warning of unspecified serious consequences otherwise.

The meeting between the European Union, Norway, Japan and the United States -- the four co-chairs of a 2003 Tokyo conference on reconstruction and development of Sri Lanka -- came as violence flared in the Tamil-dominated Jaffna peninsula. At least one person was shot and wounded on Monday as Sri Lankan troops and protestors clashed, with each side accusing the other of trying to provoke further violence.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have threatened to resume their two-decade struggle next year unless Colombo comes up with a viable power-sharing blueprint, saying this is its last chance to avert a return to a war in which more than 64,000 people have died.

"The co-chairs condemn the LTTE's enforced boycott of the presidential election in parts of the north and east, which deprived Tamil voters of the right to vote," the group said in a statement. "The co-chairs also condemn in the strongest terms the recent escalation of violence in the north and east," it added.

"The co-chairs call on the LTTE to put an immediate end to their on-going campaign of violence ... Failure to demonstrate a willingness to change would not be without serious consequences."

But the group welcomed an agreement between the government and LTTE to hold talks to review implementation of a ceasefire agreement between the two sides, which Japan has offered to host, urging both sides to meet without delay.

The rebels on Saturday rejected Japan's offer to host peace talks, saying they wanted only to go to peace broker Norway, and that the government was trying to freeze them out of Europe.

The EU has barred LTTE delegations from entry and has said it is considering listing the organisation as a terrorist group, as Britain and the US have. More than 1,000 people marched through Colombo to the European Commission offices ahead of Monday's meeting in Brussels to demand such a listing.

Earlier Sri Lanka's parliament was suspended briefly yesterday after political proxies of the Tamil Tiger rebels staged a protest, shouting slogans and demanding the army pull back troops in the minority Tamil north of the country.

Tamil National Alliance leader R. Sampanthan accused the army of opening fire on peaceful crowds in the Tamil-dominated Jaffna peninsula on Monday and injuring 15 people as student demonstrators clashed with troops.

The TNA demanded the government "withdraw all armed forces from all civilian inhabited areas", he said.