Sri Lanka: January 25, 2004


while the rest of the LTTE (mainly in the north), controls another 9,000. 

Peace talks with the Tamil rebels are stalled because the Sinhalese majority is deadlocked over how much autonomy to give the minority Tamils. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe's United National Party and Muslim allies have 129 seats in the 225-seat parliament, (including the support of 15 Tamil legislators). With that control of parliament, they negotiated a ceasefire last April. But the LTTE is demanding partition of the island into Tamil and Sinhalese portions. The majority of Sinhalese oppose this, as does the Moslem minority, who mainly live in Tamil areas. Most Tamils are Hindu, and the Moslems fear persecution under Tamil rule.

Opposing the Prime Minister is President Chandrika Kumaratunga, whose party has 77 seats and is not willing to let the Tamils partition the island of Sri Lanka, or give the Tamils much autonomy at all. She accuses the LTTE of building up their fighting forces during the ceasefire and believes that the Norwegians, who have brokered the peace talk, are pro-Tamil. The President is elected separately and she can dismiss cabinet ministers and call new elections. She has threatened to call new elections, and will probably do so if she feels public opinion would put her party back into the majority (thus giving her control over who will be Prime Minister.)

No one wants a return to fighting, but too many Sinhalese are violently opposed to partition.


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