COLOMBO (Reuters) -Sri Lanka”s Tamil Tiger rebels on Monday demanded police identify two suspected rebel cadres arrested in connection with the assassination of Sri Lanka”s foreign minister, again denying any involvement.
Police have arrested two Tamil youths they suspect are members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) on suspicion of helping plan the assassination of Lakshman Kadirgamar on August 12.
The sniper — or snipers — responsible for the killing are still at large, and the assassination has raised the specter of a return to the Tigers” two-decade war for self-rule.
"As a nation we have already denied it," Tigers spokesman Daya Master said by telephone from the northern rebel stronghold of Kilinochchi. "We want to know their identity.
"Normally they (the government) say Tigers have been arrested, that”s the usual wording. We have to find out."
The Tigers have rejected government accusations that they killed Kadirgamar, but few in Colombo believe them. Dozens of their opponents have been gunned down since a 2002 ceasefire and analysts say their denial is a stock disclaimer.
However, the rebels have wound down their fiery rhetoric in the wake of the killing, and have vowed not to initiate a return to a conflict that has already killed over 64,000 people.
A senior police source said the suspects, arrested last week and the only pair now in custody, had visited senior rebels in Tiger territory.
"They are Tamils … They were assisting the main people," a top Colombo Crime Division source told Reuters, asking not to be identified. He said they were suspected Tamil Tiger cadres.
"They had been taken to Kilinochchi and met with some LTTE hierarchy. That was some time ago," he added. "Enquiries are not completed. Until we proceed with the investigation and complete it, we can”t have them produced in court and they”ll be kept under emergency laws for some time."
Police spokesman Rienzie Perera confirmed two Tamil youths had been arrested, one a gardener, the other a trishaw driver.
Peace mediator Norway is arranging emergency talks between the two sides in a bid to find ways to preserve a 3-1/2-year truce — the longest period of relative peace since the Tigers began their war for self-rule in earnest in 1983.
But the government and the rebels have yet to agree on where to hold the talks, and with a presidential election due this year, most likely in November, some observers fear the talks could be pushed onto the backburner by political campaigning.
Nordic truce monitors who oversee the ceasefire and have to rule on violations by both sides are still waiting to be given details of the police investigation.
"We can”t make a ruling because we don”t have access to the investigative materials as yet," said Helen Olafsdottir, spokeswoman for the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission.
A silent war of attrition in the restive east which the Tigers and the military each blame on the other and which has killed dozens of police, soldiers and rebel cadres since 2002, continues to pile pressure on the truce.
"The environment is so complex and nobody has been able to prove (who is behind) any of these murders, so the speculation continues and in the meantime the whole ceasefire is being gradually undermined," Olafsdottir said.