Sri Lanka tsunami aid deal may not come through
COLOMBO: Growing opposition to a much-delayed tsunami aid-sharing deal between the Sri Lankan government and Tamil Tiger rebels has sparked fears that the pact may not come through before a key donor meeting this month.
The deal, called the joint mechanism, proposes to share $2 billion worth of pledged aid between the government and the rebels - who control parts of the north and east of the island — to rebuild areas ravaged by the Indian Ocean tsunami.
“I think there is a concern that if this criticism is increasing it will be more difficult to agree on the mechanism,” a western diplomat told Reuters. “So in that sense, yes it is worrying and the process of finalising it should be speeded up.”
The donor meeting is scheduled to be held in mid-May in the central hill city of Kandy. The aid-sharing deal is seen as a likely precursor to forging lasting peace in the war-torn nation. But its opponents say it would lead to giving in to a rebel demand for interim self-rule in their strongholds.
Last week, activists supported by a Marxist ally of the coalition government put up posters in the capital Colombo opposing the mechanism while powerful Buddhist monks launched a signature campaign against it.
Protests by a Muslim ally of the government, also opposed to the deal, could spill over into the streets in the east of the island, a newspaper report said.
The posters put up by the Patriotic National Movement (PNM) show a man whose bleeding head has fallen over a packet of food on a table.
“Do we give murderous tiger terrorists, who murdered Mr Thyagarajaha Kailanathan while he was having his meal, a joint mechanism?” the poster asks, referring to the government official shot dead by the rebels last year.
Marxist party chief Somawansa Amarasinghe says a responsible government should not have anything to do with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), let alone cooperate or have an agreement with them.
President seen stalling: Nearly 40,000 people were swept to their deaths and another 500,000 made homeless by the Dec. 26 tsunami - Sri Lanka’s worst natural disaster in memory. The government and the LTTE were locked in two decades of conflict, in which more than 64,000 people were killed, until a 2002 ceasefire.
The rebels, who fought for a separate homeland, remain wary of a government they accuse of denying them a fair share of aid. They insist the mechanism must be in place before they will consider any wider talks, stalled for two years, for a lasting solution to the conflict. Although President Chandrika Kumaratunga has repeatedly stressed the mechanism was the first step to end the war and urged the rabidly anti-LTTE Marxists to relent, analysts and the rebels say she is stalling for time.
The president is more focused on a referendum for a constitutional change to abolish the executive presidency and take over as prime minister as she cannot become president again after her second term ends next year, they say.
But aid agencies and foreign governments are keen that the mechanism is put in place before the donor meeting is due, the western diplomat said. reuters