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LTTE to boycott Japan's review meet

By V.S. Sambandan

COLOMBO Sept. 10. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has decided to stay away from a meeting called by Sri Lanka's largest donor, Japan, to review the progress of the peace process, to be held here on September 13. The meeting will be chaired by Tokyo's special envoy to the peace process, Yasushi Akashi, who is to arrive here on September 11 on a six-day visit to the island — his first since the LTTE's boycott of the June international donors' conference, during which financial assistance to the extent of $4.5 billion was pledged for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of war-torn Sri Lanka. The Colombo meeting has been called to review the ground-level progress of the peace process as Tokyo has linked disbursement of funds to the way in which the peace process unfolds.

Sticking to its stand for boycotting the June conference, the LTTE said in a statement today: "the lack of an effective structure to receive and disburse the funds meant for resettlement, reconstruction and development was the sole reason for the organisation to opt for an interim administrative structure, which alone the LTTE believes can effectively deal with the process".

Expressing its "inability" to attend the meeting, the LTTE said: "the premises that prevailed" during the rebel-boycott of the Tokyo donors' conference "have not changed in any manner enabling the organisation to participate in the follow-up meeting". The LTTE, however, said that its "leadership intends to clarify their position to Mr. Akashi in a meeting scheduled to take place in Kilinochchi on September 14".

Last November, when Mr. Akashi linked financial assistance to the peace process and said: "rehabilitation and reconstruction issues cannot be delinked from the peace process". Subsequently, in January, Tokyo made a capital contribution of Rs. 35 million as assistance to the now-defunct SIHRN (Sub-committee on Immediate Humanitarian and Rehabilitation Needs in the North and East) — a joint panel comprising the LTTE and Government representatives.

In the run-up to the Tokyo international donors' conference, the LTTE had charged Colombo with "excessive internationalisation" of the conflict resolution process by involving "extra-territorial forces". Japan has staked a direct role in the development issues of the peace process and Mr. Akashi is the principal adviser to the SIHRN.

Mr. Akashi's visit to Sri Lanka comes at a time when there is uncertainty over the resumption of the peace process and the direction of the island's latest attempt to negotiate a political settlement with the LTTE. During his earlier visits to Sri Lanka, Mr. Akashi, a former U.N. Under-Secretary for Humanitarian Affairs, who has served in Cambodia and the erstwhile Yugoslavia, has emphasised that the "peace dividends" for the island would be through considerable international assistance, not only for the north east, but also for the south, if there was a permanent end to the conflict. During his visit last November, Mr. Akashi also made it clear that the donor community would not be prepared to finance rehabilitation and reconstruction "if there is any lapse into conflict".

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