LTTE slams SLA Commander, says "decommissioning is non-negotiable"

[TamilNet, Friday, 03 January 2003, 14:28 GMT]
Responding to the Sri Lanka Army's reiterated demand that the Liberation Tigers must decommission their heavy weapons before Tamil civilians would be permitted to resettle in their villages now within High Security Zones, the LTTE Friday said the issue was non-negotiable and expressed "deep disappointment" over the Army's "confrontational" position.

Sri Lanka Army Commander Lt. Gen. Lionel Balagalle said Thursday that civilians would not be allowed to resettle in occupied villages in High Security Zones (HSZs) unless the LTTE first laid down its heavy weapons.

Lt. Gen. Balagalle was speaking after meeting Sri Lanka's Buddhist clergy on the 53rd anniversary of the SLA's formation. His comments came days before the Liberation Tigers and the Sri Lanka government are due to hold the fourth round of direct talks under Norwegian facilitation.

"There is still a challenge from the LTTE. As long as they are armed this remains. If they are unable to hand over the arms to the government they can still hand them over to a third party," Lt. Gen. Balagalle was quoted by press reports as saying.

When contacted by TamilNet over the SLA Commander's comments, the LTTE's Chief Negotiator and political advisor, Mr. Anton Balasingham, said "We are deeply disappointed over Lt. Gen. Balagalle's placing of this condition [LTTE decommissions its heavy weapons] before civilians are allowed to resettle in villages occupied by the Army."

"Disarming or decommissions of either heavy or light weapons is non-negotiable," Mr. Balasingham stressed.

Asked if the issue of the LTTE's arms would be discussed at the talks in Thailand next week, Mr. Balasingham further said de-commissioning was "not up for discussion."

"This confrontational position adopted by the Army Commander just days before the next round of talks [with the Sri Lanka government] is provocative and will not contribute to the creation of a congenial atmosphere for discussions," Mr. Balasingham pointed out.

"The hardline position on the resettlement of hundreds of thousands of displaced adopted by the Army Commander and the Army Commander for Jaffna [Maj. Gen. Sarath Fonseka] and supported by President Chandrika Kumaratunga has rendered the Sub-committee on De-escalation and Normalisation defunct," Mr. Balasingham said.

 

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