Sri Lanka May Offer Tigers Amnesty
The Sri Lankan government is considering an offer of amnesty to Tamil Tiger separatists who surrender, a minister has said.
But the offer will not be extended to Velupillai Prabhakaran, the leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), Mahinda Samarasinghe, the Sri Lankan human rights minister, said on Sunday.
He said government lawyers are studying the legal basis for such a move, adding that the “leadership will be dealt with under the laws of the country”.
He said there will also be no pardon offered to those convicted for various attacks or were wanted in neighbouring India for the 1991 assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, the then Indian prime minister.
Samarasinghe also said there were plans to provide surrendering fighters vocational training to help them reintegrate into society.
Tamil Tiger leaders have vowed never to surrender, and every fighter is said to wear a cyanide capsule and sworn to swallow the capsule to avoid capture.
But the government said a number of fighters have already given themselves up, including the former LTTE media spokesman and an interpreter for its political wing. >>>
The separatist Tamil Tigers, besieged and surrounded on a boggy beachfront, asked Britain and France on Sunday to press the government of Sri Lanka for a cease-fire.
But the government, which has demanded an unconditional surrender, has rejected any truce. The government says it is in the final stage of the 25-year conflict.
Observers say that given the government’s vast military superiority, the only reason the war is dragging on is that tens of thousands of civilians remain trapped in the war zone. The rebels have lost their navy and air force, all important bases and supply lines, and most of their heavy weapons. What is more, their territory has been reduced to an area roughly twice the size of Central Park.
The rebel force also has shrunk to a core of seasoned fighters. As rebels are killed, a Sri Lankan general said Sunday, civilians are pressed into service, which has kept the rebel force between 200 and 500 fighters. >>>
The road that bridges the lagoon separating the mainland from a coastal strip housing the last stronghold of Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tiger insurgents looks like a rubbish tip.
Clothes and aid packets lie everywhere, discarded by the more than 100,000 refugees who fled through here from rebel-held territory during fierce fighting two weeks ago.
“It’s two-three kilometres in this direction,” says Major General Jagath Dias, commander of the Sri Lankan army’s 57 Division, pointing to the new front line with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam rebels across the lagoon in northern Sri Lanka.
Asked how long it will take to defeat the Tamil rebels trapped in an area of beach, jungle and swamp about six kilometres long, he says: “A couple of days. It would only be a couple of hours if the civilians were not there – confidently, I can tell you that.”
As Sri Lanka’s 25-year civil war reaches its endgame, the fierce propaganda battle that has accompanied the conflict is also reaching its crescendo.
Faced with defeat, the Tigers have been accused of forcibly herding the population of their former northern territories into the conflict zone.
The military estimates that since January about 185,000 people have escaped the area, leaving up to 20,000 civilians in the rebel-held zone, according to the government, or at least 50,000, according to the United Nations.
For Velupillai Prabhakaran, the LTTE’s elusive leader, concerns over civilian casualties may offer him the last hope of salvaging what looks to be a hopeless situation as he uses international alarm over the humanitarian situation to press for a diplomatic solution. >>>