Sri Lanka decides to pull out of ceasefire with LTTE

By P.K. Balachandran, IANS

Colombo : The Sri Lankan government Wednesday decided to withdraw from the Norway-brokered 2002 ceasefire agreement it had signed with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) citing failure to bring peace to the country.

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“The cabinet tonight (Wednesday) took a policy decision to annul and abrogate the agreement as it was a mere scrap of paper and had failed to bring peace to the country,” government spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella told IANS.

The cabinet paper for the abrogation of the pact was presented by Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake and was accepted unanimously, Rambukwella added.

“The withdrawal is being made as per the provisions of the agreement itself and peace facilitators Norway will be informed,” the spokesman said.

The agreement says that the withdrawing party will have to give 14 days notice before giving effect to the withdrawal.

The withdrawal followed a call by the Secretary of Defence Gotabhaya Rajapaksa a few days ago to annul the agreement saying it was a “joke”.

The defence secretary, who is President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s brother, had also called for the re-imposition of the ban on the LTTE as it had proved to be a “terrorist” organization.

Justifying the unilateral withdrawal, Rambukwella said that the LTTE had proved that it was not interested in peace and peaceful negotiations to end the Tamil question.

“The LTTE not only withdrew from the talks unilaterally (in 2003) but also refused to abide by the Oslo Declaration to work towards a federal system as a solution to the problem.”

Efforts by successive Sri Lankan governments to find a peaceful solution through talks had failed because of the intransigence of the LTTE, he said.

“President Rajapaksa had extended a hand of friendship but he was beaten,” Rambukwella said, recalling the spate of attacks which the LTTE launched on the Sri Lankan armed forces in early 2006, while the troopers exercised great restraint.

The withdrawal from the agreement took place in the context of two violent incidents in Colombo. On New Years day Tuesday, a Tamil parliamentarian was shot dead in a Colombo Hindu temple and four persons including a soldier were killed Wednesday in a claymore mine blast in the centre of the capital city.