Sri Lanka’s government Friday rejected a call by separatist Tamil rebels to revive a 2002 cease-fire, a week after Colombo officially withdrew from the truce.
Keheliya Rambukwella, a minister and government’s defense spokesman, claimed the rebels had used the cease-fire to strengthen themselves militarily and “to continue their terrorist activities.”
“Considering the ground realities, it (the rebel’s offer) looks hilarious,” said Rambukwella.
His comments come a day after the rebels’ political-wing chief B. Nadesan said the Tigers were “ready to implement every clause” of the Norway-brokered truce and respect it “100 per cent.”
“We are shocked and disappointed that the government of Sri Lanka has unilaterally abrogated the cease-fire agreement signed in 2002,” Nadesan said in a statement, the first public reaction to the government’s decision.
A new wave of fighting and attacks nationwide has killed at least 204 people - 195 rebels, six soldiers and three civilians - since the government withdrew from a 2002 cease-fire on January 3, according to the military.
Sri Lanka’s government announced last week it was pulling out of the cease-fire, saying growing violence in the last two years had rendered it irrelevant. The truce formally becomes invalid Jauary 16.
Despite the cease-fire, near-daily ambushes, assassinations and airstrikes have killed more than 5,000 people in the last two years.
Meanwhile, fighting continued in the embattled north Friday.
Sri Lankan fighter jets destroyed a rebel sea base in the Nayaru area of rebel-controlled Mullaithivu district, military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara said. No casualty details were immediately available.
Elsewhere, soldiers pushed into rebel territory in the Parappaankandal area of Mannar district and destroyed four rebel bunkers early on Friday, killing 10 guerrillas, Nanayakkara said.
Separate clashes in the region in the past two days killed 16 rebels and wounded eight soldiers, he said.
Rebel officials could not be contacted immediately for comment.
More than 70,000 people have been killed since the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) began fighting in 1983 for an independent state for Sri Lanka’s ethnic Tamil minority, claiming discrimination by the Sinhalese majority.
The rebel group is banned as a terrorist organization in the United States, India, the European Union and Canada.
Nadesan called on the international community to “immediately remove the bans it has placed on the LTTE believing the false propaganda of the Sri Lankan government.” (AP)
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