NATIONAL

U.S., U.K. want LTTE to reject terror

COLOMBO NOV. 24. As the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) continues its quest for international legitimacy, the major participants of the donors' conference to be held on Monday have asserted that there would be no change in their policies on the banned organisation unless it demonstrated change.

Central to any move towards international acceptance of the Tigers will be their "complete renunciation" of terror, violence and a separate Tamil Eelam. In addition, there is added pressure on them to ensure that any solution to the conflict ensures space for democratic politics.

The U.S. envoy to Colombo, Ashley E. Wills, made it clear last week, before leaving for the Oslo conference, that the LTTE would continue to be listed as a foreign terrorist organisation by Washington. He rejected Opposition criticism that the participation of the U.S. Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage, in the meet was tantamount to "rewarding terrorism". The U.S., he emphasised, "will not share a table" with the Tigers and Washington's presence was to underline its support to help restore peace on the island.

Asked what the U.S. was looking for as indications of a "lasting peace", Mr. Wills told a press conference that the LTTE would have to, among other things, publicly renounce violence and terror and "dispense, once and for all, with the idea of a separate Tamil Eelam". Moreover, emphasising the need to ensure plurality, he said another important marker was to ensure that "Sri Lanka and all its component parts are plural".

These observations have direct implications on the Tigers' stand that the north and the east of Sri Lanka are traditional homelands of the Tamils. The LTTE has waged its decades-long separatist conflict based on the concepts of "traditional homelands, nationality and the right to self-determination" of the Tamils.

The U.K., to be represented by its International Development Minister, Clare Short, has also said that its policy was unchanged. London maintains that the Tigers will have to "demonstrate a complete and convincing renunciation of terrorism". Like the U.S., Britain also does not see a contradiction between banning the Tigers and supporting the peace process. The aim of the British law, which banned the LTTE, "is not to prevent a legitimate dialogue between officials and a proscribed organisation, for instance, to further a peace process". Its Foreign Office has said that "it is important that the U.K. supports all efforts towards successful talks".

Australia, Japan and the E.U. are the other countries that have promised participation in the Oslo meet. Japan, which is Sri Lanka's single largest donor, has also made it clear that there will have to be "progress on the ground" before its development purse is opened up.

Since the first session of the latest peace process, the LTTE has said it would consider a political solution with substantial regional autonomy and self-governance as an alternative to a separate Eelam. On the issue of violence and terror, it has maintained that it was not issuing death-threats. On democracy and human rights, its position is that its "ultimate aim" is to enter the democratic fold and that it would like to "accept and assimilate" other non-LTTE organisations. At the ground level as well, the LTTE has expanded its appurtenances of state through "police stations, law courts and taxation".