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Sri Lanka Rebels to Resume Struggle for Homeland

23 February 2007

In Sri Lanka, the rebel Tamil Tigers say they are resuming their struggle for an independent homeland. As Anjana Pasricha reports from VOA's bureau in New Delhi, the announcement comes 15 months after the rebels and the government virtually abandoned a ceasefire and began new fighting.

Tamil Tiger rebels say that a ceasefire agreement signed with the government in 2002 is effectively over. They vowed to continue with their struggle for a separate homeland in the north and east for the country's minority Tamil community due to what they termed the "government's war of aggression".

The rebel statement was made late Thursday on the fifth anniversary of the truce.

The ceasefire agreement has not been formally abandoned, but it has been in tatters since the two sides resumed fighting last year. Truce monitors said Friday nearly 4,000 people have died in the ethnic conflict over the past 15 months compared with just 130 in the previous four years.

The rebels say the international community shares the blame for the renewed conflict because it had failed to stop the government's truce violations.

However, political analysts in Colombo say the fault lies elsewhere. Rohan Edresinghe, deputy head of Colombo's Center for Policy Alternatives, blamed both the rebels and the government for the collapse of the truce. He says the LTTE, as the Tigers group is known, has violated the ceasefire on many occasions.

"They (rebels) continued with assassinations of Tamil politicians and Tamil figures who dissented from their line. And then when the negotiations took place, too, although there were moments when they seemed conciliatory … there were also moments where they took a very intransigent line. And as a result of their hard line, I think public opinion among the Sinhalese majority … began to doubt the bona fides of the LTTE, and as a result the whole peace initiative got discredited," said Edresinghe.

The mood in Colombo is also hard line. On Thursday, thousands of ethnic Sinhalese nationalists marched in the capital calling for the truce to be scrapped. The government has vowed to crush the Tigers' military machine after recent successes in operations to capture territory controlled by the rebels.

Norway, which mediated the ceasefire, said this week the onus is on the government and the rebels to halt the fighting. However it has offered to "go the extra mile" and revive peace talks.

More than 67,000 people have been killed since the Tamil Tigers began their struggle for an independent homeland in 1983 after accusing the Sinhalese majority of discrimination against the Tamils.

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