A top official from President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s office visited the rebel-held town of Kilinochchi on Saturday amid signs the peace process is being re-activated, the state-run Sunday Observer said.
“There are positive signs that the government-LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) peace talks would recommence in early November,” the paper said.
The report came a day after Tiger rebels freed two paramilitary policemen they had been holding since August.
Military officials said the Tigers released the two men in the north-eastern district of Trincomalee on Saturday, a day after a Sri Lankan court granted bail to 10 Tiger rebels who had been in custody for illegally carrying weapons.
There was no immediate reaction to the press report from the Tamil Tigers who have said that a resumption of negotiations had to be based on their proposal for self-rule.
However, government spokesman Mangala Samaraweera said last week that a set of fresh proposals had already been finalised to restart negotiations with the Tigers.
Samaraweera told reporters: “The proposals will be given to the Tigers when they are ready to look at them.”
“There are positive signs that the government – LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) peace talks would recommence in early November”The Sunday Observer
He said the cabinet was “baffled” at the Tigers’ reluctance to re-open talks with the new government which came to power in April after the president sacked the previous administration for allegedly conceding too much to the rebels.
Samaraweera said the new government had maintained the Norwegian-brokered ceasefire that had been in place since February, but he accused the Tigers of systematically eliminating political opponents.
President Kumaratunga earlier this month invited the rebels to discuss setting up a federal state in exchange for peace.
Her government’s main coalition partner, the Marxist JVP, opposes any territorial concessions to the Tigers, and opposition parties have demanded a united front to push ahead with the peace process.
The Sunday Observer said a Norwegian delegation was expected in the country shortly to take the latest government proposals to the Tigers.
However, Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey warned last week that Sri Lanka’s ceasefire was in danger of breaking down, and she asked the two sides to return to the negotiating table as quickly as possible.
Kumaratunga says the Tigers
Calmy-Rey said a “lack of confidence” was holding up a resumption of talks. She also made it clear to the Tigers that all political killings had to be brought to an end.
The government has accused the Tigers of murdering more than 250 rivals since the ceasefire.
The rebels have denied carrying out the killings, but have been severely criticised by international human rights groups as well as the European Union and the United States.
More than 60,000 people have been killed in Sri Lanka’s three-decade war between Colombo and the Tamil rebels.
The Tigers have been demanding independence for the island’s Tamil minority, but in December 2002 they agreed to settle for extensive regional autonomy within a federal structure.