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Only a federal solution in Sri Lanka: Anandasangaree

By Our Special Correspondent

CHENNAI, FEB 24. The Tamil National Alliance members of parliament had failed in their duty to the people of North-East Sri Lanka who they represent by their refusal to participate in the Sri Lankan Government's post-tsunami rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts, a prominent Tamil politician said today.

"They have not attended any of the meetings where these matters are discussed. The President [Chandrika Kumaratunga] even offered to fly down [R] Sampanthan [the MP representing Trincomalee] to Colombo by a special helicopter for discussions on what needs to be done in the North-East, but he refused," said V. Anandasangaree, president of the Tamil United Liberation Front. He is in Chennai on a private visit.

"It is quite meaningless to find fault with government efforts in the North-East when you haven't even told the government what you need," he said.

Mr. Anandasangaree is the only member of his party who has kept out of the Tamil National Alliance, a four-party front backed by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

He contested the April 2004 parliamentary elections as an independent candidate in Jaffna and lost. Election monitors said the LTTE intimidated voters into electing only TNA candidates. The TNA won all 22 seats in the North-East.

The veteran politician said that instead of putting up the needs of the tsunami victims to the Government, the TNA MPs were only interested in projecting the LTTE line that the aid must be handed over to the LTTE.

"The Tamil people have already lost out in the process. In the south and south-east, rebuilding has already begun. They are building housing projects and hospitals. But there is no one to even make a demand for a housing project or a hospital in the North," Mr. Anandasangaree said.

Similarly, he pointed out, the LTTE's demand for a virtual separation from Sri Lanka through the Interim Self-Governing Authority proposals, and the stalling of the peace process over this, had ensured that three years of the ceasefire between the Sri Lankan Government and the LTTE had passed without any substantial post-conflict reconstruction of the North-East.

`Unreasonable demands'

"The LTTE is making totally unreasonable demands that no government can meet. There can only be a federal solution in Sri Lanka. That is the best solution to our problem, and the LTTE needs to understand this," Mr. Anandasangaree said.

Despite the seemingly unbridgeable differences between the Sri Lankan Government and the LTTE, Mr. Anandasangaree said this was "the best time" to find a permanent solution to the Tamil question.

"The attention of the international community is focussed on Sri Lanka and its problems, especially after the tsunami. That is why I say now is the best time to bring a solution," he said.

Mr. Anandasangaree said that despite the fragility of the ceasefire, the threat of renewed hostilities between the LTTE and the Government was slight. "Neither side is prepared for that," he said.

But in order to strengthen the ceasefire, it was important for the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission, the ceasefire monitoring committee, to establish contact with the Karuna faction of the LTTE so that the violence in the East between the Karuna group and the LTTE could be brought under control.

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