NATIONAL

Norway supplied communication equipment to LTTE: Anura

NEW DELHI DEC. 4. The Norwegian Government has supplied the LTTE with 70 tonnes of communication equipment to begin radio and television broadcasts, Anura Bandaranaike, Senior Adviser to the Sri Lankan President, Chandrika Kumaratunga, alleged.

He told The Hindu today that the equipment had been unloaded at Colombo port on November 26 and then handed over to the Tigers at Omanthai. It was transported by road. The Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) leader claimed that the equipment could be used to "beam broadcasts'' to the southern part of India. Underlying his observation were the security implications for India.

Mr. Bandaranaike, accompanied by his colleagues, Mangala Samaraweera and Sarath Amunugama, called on the Prime Minister, A.B. Vajpayee, and handed over a letter from Ms. Kumaratunga this morning. He said they had also met the External Affairs Minister, Yashwant Sinha, the National Security Adviser, Brajesh Mishra, and the Foreign Secretary, Kanwal Sibal, since arriving in the Capital on Monday.

For some time now, India has been telling the two principal Sinhala parties to arrive at a consensus in order to deal with the LTTE in the peace process. Sources, however, said that the split in the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) had implications for political stability in Colombo. The UNP-led Government now had a razor-thin majority unless the Tamil parties' alliance came out in support. They also pointed out that from midnight tonight Ms. Kumaratunga, in her capacity as Executive President, had the powers to dismiss the elected Government.

Despite consistent efforts, including by New Delhi, to bridge the wide gulf between Ms. Kumaratunga and the Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, little progress has been made in this direction. Given the obvious concerns of the SLFP-led People's Alliance on the peace process and the role being played by the Norwegians, and the differences between Ms. Kumaratunga and Mr. Wickremesinghe, Sri Lankan politics appears to be entering an uncertain phase once again.

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