Resettlement and normalisation ‘main issues’ for Thailand talks - Balasingham

[TamilNet, Sunday, 29 December 2002, 12:26 GMT]
The resettlement of displaced Tamil people and the normalisation of conditions in their areas of residence will be the main issues to be taken up at the negotiations in Thailand next month between the Liberation Tigers and the Sri Lankan government, the LTTE’s chief negotiator, Mr. Anton Balasingham, said Sunday.

Speaking to TamilNet Sunday, Mr. Balasingham said that the Sri Lanka Army’s (SLA) refusal to vacate the homes of hundreds of thousands of people in defiance of the cease-fire agreement and subsequent commitments made by the Colombo government had rendered the Sub-Committee on De-escalation and Normalisation (SDN) defunct.

The SLA position was thereby also an impediment to the functioning of the the Sub-Committee on Immediate Humanitarian and Rehabilitation Needs (SIHRN), he said.

As such, the issues of resettlement, de-escalation and normalisation would be taken up at the direct talks between the government and the LTTE, Mr. Balasingham told TamilNet.

“The severe existential problems of the Tamil people remain outstanding,” Mr. Balasingham said.

“The peace process has proceeded smoothly and much progress has been made,” he pointed out. “The agreements reached by both parties on immediate humanitarian issues are however yet to be implemented.”

“Detailed discussion on core issues cannot be undertaken when hundreds of thousands of Tamil people remain unable to return to their homes,” Mr. Balasingham said, adding that “the resettlement and rehabilitation of the displaced [people] are the urgent cardinal issue of the day.”

“As such, the Sri Lanka Army’s hardline attitude towards the difficulties faced by the Tamil people, which has regrettably been supported by the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission is unacceptable,” he said further.

The SLA said last week that it would not permit resettlement of hundreds of thousands of people whose homes now come within its High Security Zones, unless the LTTE agreed to the “disarming of [its] cadres and decommission of [its] long range weapons.”

When asked about press reports he had discussed these matters with the head of the SLMM, Maj. Gen. Furuhovde, Mr. Balasingham said he had not spoken to the SLMM. Sri Lanka’s state-owned Sunday Observer claimed this week that Mr. Balasingham had on Friday “personally telephoned [Furuhovde] from London and assured him.”

The fourth round of direct talks between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government are to be held in Bangkok from January 6 to 9.

Queried about press reports that the SLMM is arranging a meeting of the SDN, comprising senior officers of the SLA and LTTE commanders, at Muhamalai before the talks in Thailand, Mr. Balasingham responded negatively, saying “such a meeting may not materialize.”


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