Sri Lanka opposition issues an ultimatum to renounce aid plan

AP , COLOMBO, SRI LANKA

Sat, Jun 11, 2005 - Page 5

Sri Lanka's plan to jointly dole out tsunami aid with Tamil Tiger rebels fell into serious doubt yesterday when a key political party said it would quit the ruling government coalition unless the plan is scrapped by the end of next Wednesday.

If the Marxist People's Liberation Front withdraws from President Chandrika Kumaratunga's ruling coalition, the government could collapse.

Kumaratunga's government has been negotiating a deal with the Tigers to share the distribution of billions of dollars in tsunami aid to Tamil-majority areas under rebel control, where rebels have complained that aid didn't arrive fast enough following the devastating Dec. 26 tsunami.

Kumaratunga has vigorously promoted the deal as a way of forging peace with the Tigers.

The Marxists joined the country's influential Buddhist clergy in strongly opposing the emerging deal, arguing it could help the guerrillas achieve their goal of carving out a separate state. Yesterday, the party gave the government a deadline of midnight Wednesday to renounce the plan.

Party leader Somawansa Amarasinghe said his party would not allow the government to enter a pact "with a terrorist organization that is not accountable to anybody other than their guns."

"The president has no right to share the sovereignty of this country," Amarasinghe said. "If the president is not going to withdraw this idea, we will be leaving the government on June 16."