Colombo, Sri Lanka — the government accused Tamil rebels Sunday of spreading false rumors of a massacre of civilians by Sri Lankan security forces to give themselves an excuse to walk out of peace talks.
Minister of State Anandatissa de Alwis told a news conference, however, the rebels were expected to return to Thimpu, the capital of the Himalayan capital of Bhutan, Sunday to resume the negotiations with the Sri Lankan government.
He said the Tamil rebels, including two of the five rebel groups represented at Thimpu, broke a ceasefire agreement.
An official of the Joint Operations Command, which directs the government’s ant guerrilla campaign, said Saturday the separatist guerrillas attacked an army outpost in the eastern town of Vakarai six hours after the walkout Saturday.
Troops and Tamil guerrillas exchanged gunfire at the camp late Saturday, he said. The official had no report of casualties.
Tamil guerrilla leaders stormed out of the fifth day of private talks after accusing state security forces of massacres of civilians.
A guerrilla spokesman said security forces killed more than 200 Tamils in the northern town of Vanyuniya during the past few days and another 200 to 250 Tamils Saturday at Sambaltivu, near the major east coast port of Trincomalee.
The spokesman said the massacres were further proof; the Sri Lankan government was seeking a “military solution” to the plight of Tamils, an ethnic minority in the Indian Ocean Island of 15 million people.
De Alwis denied the allegations, saying 19 people, including children, had died Friday in Vanvuniya, including four members of the majority Buddhist Sinhalese community. He gave no further details of the incident.
Asked why state-run news reports set the death toll at 21, with 18 injured, he said the reports used rough figures.
The minister said guerrillas timed the massacre rumors in order to wreck the Thimpu talks. He said the rebels want the meeting to fail so they can continue to engage in violence.
India, with its large Tamil population in the south, was chiefly responsible for arranging the peace talks between the government and guerrillas.
A second round of talks, the first official meeting between the government and Tamil militants began Monday and broke down Saturday.
The talks are aimed at finding a solution to Tamil demands for greater autonomy in the northern and eastern provinces of Sri Lanka, an Indian Ocean island formerly known as Ceylon.
Article extracted from this publication >> August 23, 1985