ASIA/SRI LANKA - Sri Lanka's Peace in danger: mutual trust teeters between government and rebels -Catholic Bishops urge parties “persevere on the path to peace”

Thursday, 29 July 2004

Colombo (Fides Service) - Hopes for peace in Sri Lanka are the lowest they have been for two years, the vice foreign minister of Norway Vidar Helgesen said after a few days of meditating talks between the parties in conflict. He said it was clear from the talks that mutual trust between government and rebels had been eroded because of recent episodes of violence and because of recent divisions among the Tamil front. In fact the rebels have split into two factions and a new leader Karuna has emerged who according to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) is backed by the government.
Recently the President of Sri Lanka, Ms Kumaratunga said she was ready to resume negotiations with the LTTE but observers say negotiations cannot start until the question of Karuna is clarified
In a recent report Human Rights Watch confirmed that the cease fire which has held for over two years failed to mark the end of violence. Signals of tension have been registered by European observers in Sri Lanka. They say the cease fire agreement has been violated by both sides (2,500 times by the Tamil and 112 times by the government army), with consequent imminent danger of a fresh outbreak of fighting. Recently the Island was devastated by a suicide bombing in the capital Colombo (the first in more than two years of peace).
The Catholic Bishops of Sri Lanka, concerned for the peace process, have called on the parties “to persevere on the path to peace, not to give in to violence so as not fall again in the darkness of hatred and war”. In the meantime Sri Lanka’s Catholics, who are of both Sinhalese and Tamil origin, are building bridges of reconciliation with peace education in parishes, communities and schools to guarantee a new generation of peaceful citizens for a prosperous Sri Lanka in the third millennium.
(PA) (Agenzia Fides 29/7/2004 lines 33 words 341)