Govt expands political links with LTTE

by Shamindra Ferdinando
The government has expanded political links with the LTTE as the ongoing Oslo-led talks enter a crucial stage, political sources said.

Malik Samarawickrema, UNP chairman and confidante of party leader Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe held talks on a range of issues with LTTE political wing leader Tamilselvan in Kilinochchi last week, the sources said. Samarawickrema was not available for comment yesterday.

The meeting in the Tiger-held territory was the first of its kind since the government and the LTTE reached a ceasefire agreement in February last year. It was evident that the UNP wants to strengthen links with the LTTE as the two parties prepare to discuss a negotiated solution based on a federal structure.

Thamilselvan was believed to have stressed the need to speed up development and rehabilitation work in the north-east, particularly in areas under its control during the meeting with the senior-most Sirikotha official to meet with the LTTE leadership.

The Kilinochchi meeting took place as the premier toured parts of the north-central province where he met with people living in areas subjected to a series of terrorist attacks over the past several years.

Subsequent to the initial talks, Thamilselvan was believed to have consulted LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran.

Samarawickrema later joined the premier in Anuradhapura where he briefed him of the talks. Interestingly, President Chandrika Kumaratunga too had been in Anuradhapura where she participated in a series of religious ceremonies at the Sri Maha Bodhi.