Tamil Tigers offer new talks

September 16, 1998

COLOMBO — Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels slammed the government for prolonging the country's ethnic conflict and offered to resume peace talks through third-party mediation, in remarks published on September 6.

Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam's (LTTE) leader Tamilchelvam, in an interview with the Sunday Leader weekly, said, "The present impasse is such that only an independent third party that has nothing to do with this war can effectively build up trust and confidence" between the rebels and the government.

The publication of the statement came as Sri Lanka's main opposition party, the United National Party, and the ruling People's Alliance said there should be talks with the LTTE to seek an end to the fighting, which has claimed more than 55,000 lives since 1972.

In the interview, Tamilchelvam accused the government of President Chandrika Kumaratunga of turning to the war against the LTTE to ensure its own political survival. "The very existence of the government depends on the war ... it will not tolerate the people coming to know of the defects in war."

Tamilchelvam said the majority Sinhalese community had been deceived by successive governments since independence from Britain in 1948, and invited the Sinhalese youth to join them to "teach a lesson" to politicians.

"Those who join the army are ... innocent Sinhala youth from remote villages. Why should they be offered as prey in this war? They have no shelter and no source of income. Our Tamil brothers and sisters also face the same problems. We are children of the same mother. This is our country", Tamilchelvam said.

Tamilchelvam said that despite the government's censorship in June of foreign and local media reports relating to the war, the security forces were unable to make any advances in the current campaign. "Whether one likes it or not, it is we who decide upon the duration of this war and the lifespan of this government", he said.

[Abridged from Australasian Federation of Tamil Association's web site at <http://www.ozemail.com.au/~eelam>.]

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