Tokyo Donor Conference
LTTE cannot call the shots, say diplomats

by Namini Wijedasa
Neither Japan nor the United States of America or other international donor nations will change their programmes or schedules on the whims and fancies of the LTTE, diplomatic sources said yesterday.

Therefore, the LTTE must decide as a matter of priority whether or not they will participate in the Tokyo donor conference.

"Mr. Balasingham must understand this reality," said an eastern diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity. "Everything has been scheduled and things are falling in place after considerable preparation."

"If the LTTE now says... suddenly... that they are not coming in June but in September, or something like that, the international community will tell them to fly a kite," he asserted. "Neither the prime minister of Japan nor Richard Armitage of America will change their schedules on the whims and fancies of the LTTE."

Other diplomats confessed that they did not understand the rationale for the LTTE’s withdrawal from the June donor conference, which they said was the culmination of a long-drawn programme involving the LTTE.

"If they don’t take part, it amounts to Dr. Balasingham cutting his nose to spite the government," said a western diplomat whose



country also intends to participate at the June meeting. "He has to think twice about it."

Meanwhile, Japanese peace envoy Yasushi Akashi is expected to arrive in Sri Lanka next week as the international community bands together in a thrust to push the Tigers back to the negotiating table.

Diplomatic sources said that Akashi is tentatively scheduled to arrive on May 6, but the dates are subject to change. He was originally due to participate in a pre-donor conference meeting that was taking place in Colombo. However, Peace Secretariat sources told "The Island" yesterday that the fate of this meeting was now uncertain in view of the LTTE’s suspension not only of peace talks, but of their participation in the Tokyo conference.

Akashi has been following the peace process closely and is a key figure in organising the summit. He is expected to hold intense discussions with both sides during his visit. Japan especially keeps on determining whether the donor conference will proceed because as host nation they have to finalise preparations.

Meanwhile, officials closely involved in peace negotiations said that the government was taking measures to meet the concerns raised in Balasingham’s letter to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. However, they underscored the importance of the LTTE taking a rationalistic view. Balasingham’s current stance — such as refusing to make himself available to Norway and of suspending participation in the Sub-Committee on Immediate Humanitarian and Rehabilitation Needs (SIRHN) — was counter-productive to the Tamil people.

"A delay in work connected with SIRHN is not the fault of the government but because there are technical delays in signing of the fund agreement," said a peace secretariat source. "It is the first time that the World Bank is engaging in work which involves a non-state entity. Therefore, there are legal requirements that they must address, not least of all because the LTTE is a banned organisation in USA."

The source explained that the World Bank is the custodian of the fund which releases money to SIRHN. The funding agreement has not yet been signed due to the reasons explained above. Thus there is a delay in SIRHN projects taking off the ground.

"We were going to overcome some of these problems at the last SIRHN meeting by providing some interim measures," the source said. "Their cancellation did not help at all.

Originally, the funding agreement was expected to be signed within three to four weeks (February).

"We can’t blame the World Bank either," the source stressed.