Sri Lankan Tamil parties sceptical

COLOMBO, AUG. 30. The LTTE representative in London, Mr. Anton Balasingham, today slammed the Sri Lankan Government on its talks offer even as Tamil parties greeted the move with scepticism. ``Now the Government is facing a serious crisis politically and is compelled to seek desperate measures to cling on to power. Having failed to work out an agreement with the main Opposition, the Chandrika regime is offering a new peace bid, claiming that this is a reassessment of policy,'' Mr. Balasingham told the TamilNet website. With this, the Government hoped to split the Tamil parties from the Opposition United National Party (UNP), he claimed. He pointed out that earlier the Government had consistently rejected the LTTE's call for ceasefire and peace talks.

The minority People's Alliance Government said on Wednesday that it was prepared to talk to the LTTE with the help of the appointed facilitator - Norway. In a shift from its earlier position that there could be no ceasefire before talks, the Government declared its readiness for a pre-talks truce and willingness to implement measures to alleviate civilian hardship in the LTTE-controlled areas.

The Government said it had hoped to invite the LTTE for talks jointly with the UNP had the two parties been successful in arriving at a power-sharing agreement. As there had been no agreement, the Government said it was considering the option of inviting the LTTE on its own for talks.

`Too late'

``The Government's offer is too late,'' said the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) parliamentarian, Mr. Joseph Pararajasingham. Along with eight other MPs from three Tamil parties, Mr. Pararajasingham is a signatory to the UNP spearheaded no-confidence motion against the Government.

It was to avert the no-confidence motion that the Government began talks with the UNP on a power-sharing deal. The talks collapsed on Tuesday.

The Tamil parties have said their decision to align with the UNP was the result of the Government's unwillingness to talk to the LTTE, its failure to respond positively to the LTTE's unilateral ceasefire and its move to sideline the Norwegian facilitator, Mr. Erik Solheim, from the process.

Mr. Pararajasingham said the Government's latest announcement - offering a ceasefire ahead of talks - and the assurance to implement measures that would alleviate the hardships to civilians in the LTTE-controlled areas, appeared to be an expedient move aimed at its own survival, and would not affect the support of the Tamil parties to the UNP.

Other parliamentarians reiterated this view. ``At the moment, the announcement sounds like a strategy to break us away from the UNP. But for that to happen, we have to be convinced of the Government's sincerity. Let the Government set a date for the talks and call a ceasefire with the LTTE immediately,'' Mr. S. Adaikalanathan, MP of the Tamil Eelam Liberation Organisation (TELO), said.