COLOMBO, Nov 23, Reuter: Police said on Wednesday they suspected Marxist rebels had shot dead 18 people, mostly government supporters, in their campaign to overthrow the Lankan government.

Police blamed the Marxist People’s Liberation Front for the deaths on Tuesday of 18 people across the Indian Ocean Island. They said five rebels were killed by security forces in the southern district of Hambantota on Tuesday.

Authorities have accused the front of killing more than 600 people, mostly supporters of the ruling united national party, since the signing of an accord in July 1987 between Sri Lanka and India aimed at ending a Tamil revolution.

The group opposes the pact and says the government should resign. It has accused the government of rigging elections and expressed doubts about the prospects of a free and fair presidential election on December 19.

On Wednesday the head of Sri Lanka’s Catholic community, Archbishop of Colombo Nicholas Marcus Fernando, joined a chorus of appeals over the past week by. Citizens groups that President Junius Jayewardene dissolves parliament and holds free elections.

Jayewardene has agreed to the request, provided the Marxist group serves in a caretaker government. The front has not responded to the proposal.

In a statement to newspapers, Fernando called on Sri Lankans to unite for peace through non-violence.

The fear of those, who perhaps have taken to arms because of their despair of having free and fair elections followed by a just society, should be eliminated immediately by assuring them of holding general elections as early as possible after the Presidential election,” he said.

Article extracted from this publication >> December 2, 1988