LTTE denies talks with Sri Lankan minister
[TamilNet, Wednesday, 15 August 2001, 09:58 GMT]
The Liberation Tigers Wednesday denied claims by the Sri Lankan government that the organisation had met and held talks with a Sri Lankan cabinet Minister during his visit Monday to the Roman Catholic shrine in Madhu, a town held by the LTTE. When contacted by telephone, the LTTE’s chief negotiator, Anton Balasingham, told TamilNet Wednesday that Aviation Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle had merely met with the LTTE’s border security guards.
A two page statement issued by Sri Lanka’s Aviation Ministry Monday said that Mr. Jeyaraj Fernandopulle “had the rare meeting with regional leaders of the LTTE on Monday during a Roman Catholic pilgrimage to the island's embattled north.”
“There was no such meeting. Mr. Fernandopulle only met our border guards who provided security for the Minister who had entered territory under our control for the purposes of pilgrimage to the Madhu shrine,” Mr.Balasingham said.
“The minister appears to have misunderstood the role and capacity of the cadres whom he met during his crossing,” Mr. Balasingham said.
“Regrettably, Mr. Fernandopulle, whose government is facing severe political problems, has falsely raised hopes of peace with his peculiar claim of a meeting with LTTE leaders,” the Tigers’ chief negotiator added. “The coverage in the international media has also unreasonably heightened optimism.”
The Sri Lankan government statement said “Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle had the opportunity to meet with local leaders of the LTTE,” and that he had been given "full security and protection" by the Tigers. “The local LTTE leaders told the minister they had no desire for a separate state and asked him to initiate a process that would bring peace with justice,” the Aviation Minister claimed.
There have been no official meetings between the LTTE and Sri Lankan Ministers for over a decade. A two-year peace initiative by the Norwegian government, has remained stalled for several months after the Sri Lankan government unilaterally downgraded the role of the peace envoy Erik Solheim earlier this year, shortly before the ongoing political crisis erupted in Sri Lanka.