COLOMBO, Aug. 6, President Junius Jayewardene said tonight the surrender of arms by Tamil rebels had ended the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka and brought the country “from darkness to light, from war to peace”.
In an address over radio and television he said the peace agreement signed last week by India and Sri Lanka and ended a “very bitter war” in the north and east, where most of the minority Tamils live.
“We have stopped the killings in the north and east. Why should they now continue in the South?” He asked, referring to protest riots by the majority Sinhalese against the peace pact.
At least 74 people were killed in the riots and government officials said the situation was still tense.
Jayewardene spoke after authorities announced plans to free nearly 4,000 suspected Tamil rebels from detention camps and send them to their homes in northern and eastern areas.
He said he had “no fear about the result of the referendum” and urged those who opposed the linkup of the two provinces to join him in campaigning in the east against it.
Killings in the South did not help the peace process and “everyone should help up to stamp out terrorism in the South”, Jayewardene said.
At a press conference in Jaffna yesterday, LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran said that if the government discriminated against Tamils “we will have no alternative but to take up arms again”.
He said people from other parts of Sri Lanka were welcome to the Northern Province, which under the agreement will be merged into a single administrative unit with the eastern province where Tamils are outnumbered by Sinhalese and Moslems.
Tamils, who have ethnic links with southern India, comprise 13 per cent of Sri Lanka’s 16 million population and Sinhalese 74’ per cent.
Jayewardene said a referendum would be held in the eastern province after a year to ratify the merger.
Article extracted from this publication >> August 14, 1987