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Rajapakse sticks to stand on unitary state

January 01, 2006

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COLOMBO, Dec 31: Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse has told the Indian government he would devolve power to the northeastern region in an attempt to find a political solution to the Tamil issue, but reiterated his resolve to do so only within the framework of a unitary state.

The Tamil Tigers (LTTE) has already dismissed the unitary state concept and insisted on a Tamil homeland and self-determination — demands the president has rejected.

President Rajapakse, who visited India this week, told President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and other Indian leaders that Sri Lanka would protect its territorial integrity at all costs.

However, analysts in Colombo point out that the president’s refusal to review his stand on unitary state may provoke the LTTE to intensify its attacks in the north and east of the country.

The reiteration by Mr Rajapakse coincided with a warning by Nordic truce monitors that the volatile situation in the northeast could lead to a civil war.

Sources said India wanted Norway to continue its role as facilitator, dismissing speculations that Delhi might encourage Colombo to seek different options.

Meanwhile President Rajapakse’s Indian visit was marred by the cancellation of his scheduled trip to Chennai to meet Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalitha Jeyaram. The visit was called off due to heavy protests to be staged by pro LTTE Tamils, who accuse the Sri Lankan government of carrying on a ‘hidden war’ in Jaffna.

APPEAL FOR TALKS: The European officials monitoring the ceasefire between the government and the Tamil Tigers have urged the two parties to hold talks soon to arrest the current wave of bloodshed.

Hagrup Haukland, the head of the monitoring mission, in a press statement condemned the recent LTTE attacks on the Lankan army.

The ceasefire monitoring mission’s chief said his colleagues were still operating in the volatile Jaffna, Mannar, Vavuniya, Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Ampara districts, but added that the monitors would not be able to continue operating in an insecure environment.

“The volatile situation has made the monitoring mission’s work increasingly difficult as we are frequently hampered, even threatened, in our work. The SLMM cannot operate in an insecure environment”, the statement said.   “Both Parties have officially declared that they are prepared to hold high-level talks. The monitoring mission is prepared to contribute to such a meeting as well as to all other attempts to have a direct dialogue between the government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.”