Omanthai (Sri Lanka), Sept. 28 (Reuters): The Sri Lankan government and Tamil Tiger rebels swapped prisoners-of-war today in the latest move to push ahead a peace process that has already silenced the guns after 19 years of war.
The exchange in a dusty no-man’s land in northern Sri Lanka happened amid unprecedented scenes of friendliness between top military leaders from both sides, who mingled with the prisoners to say their goodbyes.
Sri Lanka’s top military officer, army chief Gen. Lionel Balagalle, sat casually next to LTTE northern commander Theepan, an encounter unimaginable several months ago.
“It is yet another significant milestone to a negotiated settlement of what was at one time considered an intractable conflict,” said Sri Lanka’s secretary of defence Austin Fernando.
The swap under a plastic tent came less than two weeks after the two sides met for a first round of peace talks in Thailand. The Tamil Tiger prisoners were given going-away gift packs that included chocolate, crackers and fruit with a card that read: “With the compliments” of army chief Balagalle.