| Chris Patten in Colombo. (Reuters)
Colombo, Nov. 25 (Reuters): The European Union’s Chris Patten said today Sri Lanka’s peace process was a ray of hope but the island’s Tamil Tigers still had a long way to go to change from rebel outfit into legitimate political group.
Patten, the EU external relations commissioner, is in Sri Lanka to push a bid to end two decades of war and said he would tell Velupillai Prabhakaran, leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), that his group had to give up violence.
“We want to be absolutely sure that the LTTE have given up violence. There is a difference between Kalashnikovs and the ballot-box and we want it to be absolutely clear that they have stopped murdering people for political ends,” Patten said.
“We want to make it clear that they stand by the ceasefire agreement, that they are not trying to purchase arms, that they are not trying to get little kids trained as suicide bombers,” he said.
When Patten meets Prabhakaran at his jungle hideout in the north of the island tomorrow, he will be the most senior political figure to meet the reclusive LTTE supremo after Norwegian foreign minister Jan Petersen, who meet him in May.
Norway brokered the truce that has mostly held since February 2002.
Patten’s visit comes amid a political standoff between President Chandrika Kumaratunga and rival Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, which has threatened to derail the peace process with the Tigers, with Norway saying its role was on hold until the power struggle ended.
“Politicians in Colombo recognise that they do have to work together in order to provide a common position for dealing with the LTTE,” Patten said.
The European Union was a co-chair of a donor conference that raised $4.5 billion in June to rebuild Sri Lanka, and Patten said that commitment showed the international community believed it was possible to end the war that has killed 64,000 people.