NEW DELHI, Dec. 28, Reuter: The leading Tamil separatist group says it respects India’s mediatory role in the Sri Lankan conflict and has no intention of conducting direct negotiations with the Colombo government “behind the back of India”.

A spokesman for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil EELAM (LTTE) quoted by the Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency in Madras last night said the LTTE would continue to support India’s genuine effort to find a political solution.

The spokesman, S. Subramanlan, told PTI that reports that his group was ready to hold direct talks with Colombo on ending the three-year Tamil struggle for a separate homeland were part of a disinformation campaign by the Sri Lanka government.

The Tamil insurgents are based in and around Madras, capital of India’s Tamil Nadu state where some 50 million ethnic Tamils live.

 The spokesman said goodwill missions undertaken by Buddhist monks, journalists and politicians based in Colombo should be seen as efforts to promote better understanding between the Tamil minority and the Sinhalese majority and not as direct negotiations for a political solution.

In Madras, 50 leaders of the Tamil EELAM Liberation Organization (TELO), an umbrella group for the separatists, yesterday began a fast to death to press for the release of 108 TELO members alleged to have been arrested! by local police during a crackdown last week.

A police spokesman told PTI most of the TELO members had now been released, although some might still be under questioning Over recent bomb blasts in Tamil Nadu.

PTI said the Tamil Chief Minister, M.G. Ramachandran, and India’s minister of state for home (interior) affairs, P. Chidambaram, had called on the TELO leaders to give up the fast and promised to look into the detentions.

The latest talks with Indian envoys ended in deadlock last week over Sri Lanka’s fresh suggestion to set up three provincial councils for Sinhalese, Tamils and Moslems in the Eastern province.

Raheem said the LTTE told Perera that India’s mediation should continue in any peace negotiations. But Perera did not convey any government preconditions for holding direct talks with the rebels, he added.

“We discussed all the problems facing the Tamils in the northern and eastern provinces and we told them that we will never accept these provincial councils” Raheem said.

Autonomous provincial councils are the key to President Junius Jayewardene’s political solution to end the conflict, which has claimed 4,500 lives since communal riots swept the island in 1983.

Krishna Kumar, Alias Kittu, the LTTE commander in the Island, told reporters Perera was told that his group would stick to its demand for an independent homeland for Tamils.

“We are in favor of direct talks but any settlement should be reached with India’s mediatory efforts and our high command in Madras will any take decision in this regard”.

Article extracted from this publication >>  January 2, 1987