11/05/2007, 00.00
SRI LANKA
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Thamilselvan buried today, people fear retaliation

by Melani Manel Perera
Civil groups and the Catholic community condemn the killing of the rebel political leader by government forces. It will not bring peace but only generate further hatred. Tigers’ leader reiterates his group’s “renewed determination” to fight for independence.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – People in Sri Lanka are fearfully waiting for the retaliation by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) as it buries the leader of its political wing, S.P. Thamilselvan, who was killed in air strike last Friday. For many local Catholics the elimination by government forces of the main interlocutor from the separatist camp in the last round of talks held in Colombo in October 2006 is seen as “a mortal blow to the moribund peace process.”

Thamilselvan is scheduled to be buried today in Vanni, an area in northern Sri Lanka under rebel control, but the LTTE have not announced the time of the ceremony.

LTTE military commander Velupillai Prabhakaran sent a message of condolences in which he called Thamilselvan a “dove of peace” whilst reiterating his group’s commitment to continue “with renewed determination” the struggle for independence of the northern and eastern regions of the island nation.

Fr Reid Shelton Fernando, a Catholic priest and a political commentator, said that for Christians, the Tamil leader’s death like any other loss of life “whether it is that of a soldier or a rebel, is never a motive for rejoicing. We have a duty to reject the culture of death in favour of a culture of life.”

In addressing the authorities, he raised doubts about the wisdom of their action, asking whether we can “truly consider Thamilselvan’s death a victory.”

Among ordinary people of every their ethnic background, there is anxiety and disappointment. Many believe that chances for renewed peace talks are getting thinner; many more are worried about what the rebels will do to even the score with the government.

In an official press release the National Peace Council in Sri Lanka (NPC) said that Thamilselvan’s death will lead to an “escalation of the present phase of war.”

It added that past targeted killings, which initially seemed to be significant, have not brought any progress towards peace. Instead they increased hatred and retaliations.

“We reject the belief that killing off leaders in a situation of ethnic conflict can by itself be a method of conflict resolution,” the NPC said.

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