Colombo, Feb. 28 (Reuters): Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tiger rebels reneged today on a pledge made to neutral truce monitors to release a soldier and police officer from their custody.
The LTTE agreed to a deal brokered by the monitors to free the pair in exchange for the release of seven of their cadres who were taken into custody by the navy last weekend in an area both sides claim as their own.
The seven rebels were freed, but the LTTE did not fulfil its part of the bargain.
“The LTTE have now said they will bring them to court later in March, but we don’t accept that at all. When we give a ruling, we mean immediately, not at the end of March,” Hagrup Haukland, the deputy head of the Nordic truce monitors, said.
“The LTTE is undermining the authority given to this mission,” he said. The Norwegian-brokered ceasefire, which was signed just over a year ago, stopped the fighting after 19 years of civil war and led to direct peace talks. It is generally holding up despite violations on both sides.
The rebels accuse the soldier and police officer — who were taken into their custody in separate incidents — of spying, but the military says they wandered into rebel areas inadvertently.
Under the terms of the agreement, neither side is allowed to carry weapons in the other’s territory. Military and rebel officials met with truce monitors today to discuss the peace process, but they did not make details of the meeting public.
Pro-rebel media has indicated the Tigers are disillusioned with the agreement because of the slow pace of rebuilding in the war-torn north and east of the country and delays in resettling some of the nearly one million displaced by the war.
“The suspiciously slow pace of reconstruction and rehabilitation in the north and east is primarily responsible for the prevailing disillusionment amongst the Tamil people,”the London-based Tamil Guardian said in its most recent editorial.