01/08/2009, 00.00
SRI LANKA
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Government bans Tamil Tigers

by Melani Manel Perera
The unanimous decision by cabinet brings the situation back to 2002, before peace talks began. Health minister says that ban does not preclude talks.
Colombo (AsiaNews) – The Sri Lanka government yesterday announced that it was banning the Liberation Tamil Tigers of Eelam (LTTE). By a unanimous vote the cabinet approved the memorandum submitted by President Mahinda Rajapaksa to outlaw the group. The LTTE had already been banned in March 1998 after its units attacked the Tooth Relic Buddhist Temple in Kandy. When peace talks began in 2002 the ban was lifted. After the army’s takeover of Kilinochchi, President Rajapaksa had urged the rebels to lay down their weapons.

At the press conference announcing the government’s decision, Healthcare and Nutrition Minister Nimal Siripala De Silva explained why it was taken.

In addition to charges of terrorism and “threatening the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic”, the rebels are blamed of forcing women and children to fight for them, using civilians as human shields, and preventing people in the north (the main battleground) from freely moving out of the area.

Minister De Silva hastened to add however that ban on the Tamil Tigers does not exclude peace talks.

Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama was also quick to point out that 32 other countries had already banned the LTTE, placing the organisation on the list of terrorist organisations.

Bogollagama said that by this decision the government sought to “further hinder it's capability to garner support locally as well as internationally for their terror acts.”

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