COLOMBO,: Aug. 4, Reuter: Sri Lanka’s most powerful Tamil guerrilla leader has agreed to surrender the weapons of his fighters ending a bloody four year guerrilla war, diplomats said.
They said Velupillai Prabhakran, leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, was due to make his decision known at a mass rally this evening in Jaffna, his northern stronghold.
Prabhakaran expressed his intention in a letter sent yesterday to MajorGeneral Harikirat Singh, Commander of the Indian peacekeeping force in Jaffna, the diplomats said.
The rebel chief has invited the people of Jaffna, mostly Tamils, as well as government officials for a meeting. He has said that the method of surrender, under a peace pact between Sri Lanka and India, could! be worked out after the meeting.
Sri Lankan authorities have designated 24 locations in the north and east where the arms could be handed to government officials in the presence of observers from the Red Cross societies of the two countries. The Indian peacekeeping force of more than 3,000 soldiers will enforce a ceasefire and supervise the surrender of arms, under the terms of the agreement.
The surrender takes place under an accord signed by Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and President Junius Jayewardene and Indian Prime Minister last week aimed at ending a conflict between majority Sinhalese and minority Tamils.
The pact aims to redress Tamil grievances by granting autonomy to the northern and eastern provinces where most of them live. The guerrillas had been fighting government troops in an attempt to set up an independent state for Tamils. Over 6,000 people have been killed in the conflict in the past four years.
Following the signing of the accord, the gums fell silent as a ceasefire came into effect, but the rebels ignored today’s deadline for the surrender of arms.
The deadline was extended for a further 72 hours today by Jayewardene and Gandhi after Prabhakaran asked for more time, the diplomats said.
They said Prabhakaran had wanted to discuss the surrender with his field commanders in the north and east before making an announcement.
Indian aircraft today flew some of Prabhakarans lieutenants to Jaffna from areas in the east for a meeting with their chief, the diplomats said. Along with the surrender of weapons by the rebels, the Sri Lankan army will withdraw to their camps in the north under the terms of the agreement.
Article extracted from this publication >> August 7, 1987