New Delhi, India — Tamil militant leaders stormed out of peace talks with the Sri Lankan government Saturday, accusing its security forces of massacring more than 400 Tamils. Hours later, guerrillas attacked an army post in Sri Lanka.
Few details were available on the attack by Tamil separatist on the Indian Ocean island nation, Sri Lankan officials said reinforcements were rushed to the aid of government troops, who were said to be locked in a gun battle.
In Colombo, the Sri Lankan capital, an official of the government agency that directs antiterrorist operations said first word of the attack in the town of Vakarai came when the army garrison there radioed for help shortly after a police convoy struck a land mine, injuring two policemen.
The Press Trust of India news agency said the walkout by Tamil leaders occurred only 30 minutes into the fifth day of closed door talks at Thimpy, capital of the Himalayan capital of Bhutan. The Tamil guerrilla attack began about six hours later, Sri Lankan officials said.
- Vasudeva, spokesman for five Tamil guerrilla groups, said, “More than 200 Tamils, including young children, innocent of any crime other than of being Tamils, have been killed” in Vavuiniya in Sri Lanka’s eastern province during the past few days.
He said Sri Lankan security forces massacred another 200250 Tamils Saturday at Sambaltivu near the major east coast port of Trincomalee.
“State armed forces, in collaboration with Sinhalese thugs, went into the village and forced the inhabitants to queue on the roadside and shot them dead,” Vasudeva said.
The spokesman said the alleged massacres were further proof the Sri Lanka government was seeking a “military solution” to the plight of Tamils.
“It is farcical to conduct the peace talks at Thimpy when there is no peace and security for the Tamil people in their homeland,” said the spokesman quoted by the Press Trust.
“We do not seek to terminate the talks, but our participation at the peace talks has now been rendered impossible by the conduct of the Sri Lankan state, which is acting in violation of the ceasefire which constituted the fundamental basis of the Thimpu talks,” he said.
The Press Trust said Indian Foreign Secretary Romesh Bhandari, who had flown to Thimpu on Thursday to help revive the talks, would remain in the Bhutanese capital to save the talks from collapse. India, with its large Tamil population in the south, was chiefly responsible for arranging the talks that began a second round Monday the first official meeting between the government and Tamil militants.
The talks are aimed at finding a solution to Tamil demands for greater autonomy in the northern and eastern provinces of Sri Lanka, whose majority population is Sinhalese Buddhists.
The five militant groups earlier Saturday rejected the government’s latest proposal for district councils to give Tamils more clout in areas of land, language, education and employment.
The guerrilla groups said the proposals fell far short of their four point charter, which would recognize Tamil rights to self-determination and a traditional homeland. The government has flatly rejected the charter as incompatible with Sri Lanka’s unity and sovereignty.
Article extracted from this publication >> August 23, 1985