|Saturday, 20 March 2004|
|Security||Today's Top Story|
LTTE rift to complicate Lanka peace bid: President
COLOMBO, Friday (AFP)
President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga said yesterday the unprecedented split in the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) had complicated peace moves and that a breakaway rebel had tried to make contact with her.
President Kumaratunga said she had not reciprocated the overtures by the breakaway Tiger leader V. Muralitharan, better known by his war name Karuna, who commands about 5,000 fighters in two eastern districts.
But the President, in her first remarks on the split in the Tigers, told the BBC that the government to be elected at April 2 polls would have to find ways to deal with both Karuna and the rebels' veteran top leader Velupillai Prabhakaran.
"President Kumaratunga said various attempts had been made by Karuna to contact her - but she said she did not normally like underhand dealings," the BBC reported on its web site.
President Kumaratunga believes the March 3 break-up among the LTTE "will complicate peace negotiations for the government," the BBC said.
The President said her immediate reaction to the split was that it would lead to an internecine war among the Tigers and in the longer term she believed the rebels would be weakened by Karuna's defection.
President Kumaratunga said that if her party won the April 2 elections, it would continue negotiations with the Tigers started by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, but in a "more professional way."
She said he had run the peace process with a "small group of friends and buddies" in a secretive "hole in the corner" manner.
Asked what she had done since November to protect security, the President said Finance Minister K. N. Choksy, had blocked funds preventing her from doing more and her only option would have been to sack him.
"She said that she had stopped short of that because she was unwilling to act like a mad lunatic taking over every ministry," the BBC said.
Produced by Lake House