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Sri Lankan monks demand end to cease-fire with Tamil rebels

Sri Lankan monks demand end to cease-fire with Tamil rebels

Some 8,000 hardline Buddhist monks and lay supporters paraded through the Sri Lankan capital Thursday, demanding the government scrap a five-year-old cease-fire with Tamil rebels _ a deal that now exists only on paper after months of deadly battles.
"Respect people's mandate, abrogate pact immediately," read a placard carried by a protester.
"Agreement of betrayal is five-years-old," read another.
The Norwegian government, which brokered a 2002 cease-fire agreement between the separatist rebels and the government, said it has not given up hope for peace in Sri Lanka.
"Norway is willing to go the extra mile to assist their peace endeavors at their request," it said in a statement. "As soon as the parties renew their peace efforts, we will be ready to do all we can to help."
The rebels said recent military operations by the Sri Lankan army had pushed back hopes of restarting peace talks.
"We expected the international community to keep the Sri Lankan state on track, but at this moment we are disappointed," rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan said.
The hardline ethnic Sinhalese monks, who are a powerful political force in the country, demanded the government formally withdraw from the cease-fire. They said the agreement favors the Tamil Tiger guerrillas.
"This so-called agreement has put the country at grave danger as it has given international recognition to Tiger terrorists. We urge government to abrogate it," monk Dambara Amila told a rally after the protest march.
The cease-fire agreement currently exists only on paper, with more than 3,200 people _ guerrillas, soldiers and civilians _ dying in violence since December 2005.
Heavily armed anti-terrorism units patrolled Colombo on Thursday, after the military suggested the Tamil Tigers may mark the cease-fire's anniversary with violence.
"They have broken the cease-fire agreement so many times by carrying out so many attacks that we are always alert these days," military spokesman Brig. Prasad Samarasinghe said.
On Thursday, Tamil Tigers attacked an army guard point in Chenkaladi in the eastern Batticaloa district, killing one soldier, military official Lt. Col. Upali Rajapakse said.
Two separate bomb blasts in the north and east killed three people and wounded 19 on Wednesday.
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam began their insurgency against Sri Lankan security forces in 1983, demanding a separate homeland for the island nation's 3.1 million-strong ethnic Tamil minority, who have suffered decades of discrimination by the Sinhalese-dominated state.
About 68,000 people have been killed in the conflict.
The government says it is willing to give autonomy to Tamil-majority areas, but the rebels insist on sweeping changes that Colombo says would infringe on Sri Lanka's sovereignty.
Despite the cease-fire, military offensives in rebel-held territory in the north and northeast continue, while the rebels are blamed for near-daily bombings and other attacks against security forces.


Updated : 2021-10-22 07:32 GMT+08:00