07/22/2008, 00.00
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LTTE proposes truce for SAARD summit

by Melani Manel Perera
Tamil Tigers says they are willing to avoid violent incidents during South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation summit. The event is a great opportunity to re-start Sri Lanka’s economy, but many slam the authorities for forced evictions and shutting down businesses on “security” grounds.
Colombo (AsiaNews) – Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels (LTTE) have called for a ten-day truce for the duration of the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC) summit scheduled for 26 July-4 August in Colombo. They have however ruled out peace talks as long as the Sri Lankan army does not stop its offensive.

Earlier this month, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa said he was ready to re-start talks with the rebels if the group laid down its weapons and stopped its attacks.

Sri Lanka's civil war has claimed some 70,000 lives since 1983.

In a press release sent via e-mail, the Tamil Tigers offer a “unilateral ceasefire” as a “sign of goodwill” during the SAARC summit.

At the same time the government has come under fire for carrying out forced evictions and wholesale destruction of buildings in preparation for the summit. On 16 July 48 small businesses were demolished, purportedly for the safety of foreign dignitaries.

But the merchants not only lost their place of business, which they had built with hard work, but will not even get a refund for the water and power taxes already paid. Many have also lost their home since they had built living quarters on the same premises.

Also for security reasons the Defence Ministry told residents to leave their homes on Slave Island as anti-riot police supervised the operation to maintain public order and crush any sign of protest.

The capital’s transport plan has also been turned radically changed. The city’s main railway stations as well as 35 schools located on the road that links the city to Katunayake International Airport have been shut down.

For most Sri Lankans the 17th SAARC summit has indeed begun but with devastating effects.

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