Date: Thu, 4 Jul 1996 14:15:35 -0700 (PDT)
Message-Id: <>
Date: Sat, 29 Jun 1996 06:58:06 -0700
From: Sivaraman Kanagasabai <>
Subject: Tamils reject peace deal compromise
Copyright 1996 South China Morning Post Ltd.
South China Morning Post

Tamils reject peace deal compromise

By Matthew Chance, South China Morning Post, 29 June 1996

The Government has received a double blow in its bid to end the country's 13-year civil war.

Tamil political parties have rejected compromise proposals aimed at meeting their demands for greater autonomy, and aid donors have withheld contributions and expressed concern at the poor security situation in the war-torn north.

At a meeting in Colombo, Tamil parliamentary leaders told President Chandrika Kumaratunga that the words "unitary state" must be deleted from the Sri Lanka constitution if the Government is serious about implementing meaningful autonomy measures for Tamils.

All-party talks are deadlocked over the issue of how much power the central Government should devolve to the proposed regional administrations.

The mainly Sinhalese opposition United National Party is objecting to changing Sri Lanka from a "unitary state" into a "union of regions", a move which it says is going too far towards creating a separate Tamil nation.

But Tamil parties want constitutional amendments to make it more difficult for the centre to meddle in the affairs of the regions.

Earlier this week a compromise measure, which left the unitary status of the country unchanged, was rejected outright.

"Any reference to a unitary state in the constitution would merely perpetuate the status quo and render any devolution meaningless to most Tamils," said Mr M. Sivasithamparam, leader of the Tamil United Liberation Front, a parliamentary ally of the Government. A narrow majority in Parliament means Mrs Kumaratunga needs cross party support to push through her widely publicised devolution plans, which she hopes will politically marginalise the separatist Tamil Tiger rebels and bring a speedy end to the civil war.

Earlier this week, the President announced ambitious plans to relocate 100,000 Tamil families to the Jaffna Peninsula and help rebuild the war-ravaged Tamil majority areas in the north.

She called upon aid agencies and the international community to provide economic support.

A meeting between representatives of these groups and the President on Thursday was described by diplomats as positive. But little of the US$ 274 million (HK$ 2.12 billion) being asked for by the Government was pledged.

"Some cash was mentioned by the Germans for technical assistance and ground supplies, like medicine, but most of us wanted more details about what projects the Government has in mind," said a diplomat.

"We're also unhappy about how safe any projects we fund would be from Tamil Tiger attacks."