Sri Lanka rebels kill 31 troops after rejecting devolution plan

Sri Lanka's separatist Tamil Tigers have rejected government plans to devolve more power to the island's north and east and killed 31 troops in the latest fighting, a pro-rebel website said on Saturday.

The head of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) political wing, B. Nadesan, also accused Colombo of blocking peace broker Norway from meeting rebel leaders in an interview with Tamilnet.com.

"The Sri Lankan government has not been providing access to the Norwegian facilitators to visit Vanni to meet with the LTTE representatives," Nadesan said.

Nadesan's remarks come as the Colombo-based government is moving ahead to devolve more power, under the 13th amendment to the constitution, to regions in the island's north and east.

After ejecting the LTTE from their eastern stronghold last July, the government this month held polls to allow residents to elect their own representatives to run the local administration.

Running on the government ticket, the former rebel-breakaway TMVP secured a majority vote to run the multi-ethnic eastern province which consists of Tamils, Muslims and Sinhalese.

But the LTTE, who have been fighting to carve out a homeland for minority Tamils in the island's north and east since 1972, have rejected Colombo's devolution plans, Nadesan said.

"How can one consider it as a basis for settlement when it has been proven that people have no interest in it?" he said.

Nadesan accused President Mahinda Rajapakse of using the "13th amendment drama" to pursue its "war against the Tamil nation, while paying lip service to the political solution."

Meanwhile the Tigers said they beat back an army advancement into rebel-held areas of Vavuniya and Mannar during several confrontations throughout Friday, killing 31 and wounding at least 52, Tamilnet.com said in a separate report.

"The Sri Lanka army pulled back after sustaining casualties," the rebels said, without giving their own casualty figures.

There was no immediate comment from Sri Lanka's defence ministry.

Fighting, which has claimed tens of thousands of lives on both sides, is now centred around the island's north, as government troops try to regain vast swathes of land under rebel control.

Colombo pulled out of the six-year Norwegian-brokered truce with the LTTE in January believing it had the military strength to crush the rebels.

Rajapakse has said he plans to conduct local polls and devolve powers to the people in the north once troops regain control of the region.

 

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