The breakaway LTTE Karuna-Pillayan faction seems to be rapidly strengthening its position with President Mahinda Rajapaka s government promoting one time separatists as its partners.
Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan, alias Pillayan, Chief Minister of the Eastern Provincial Council, last week joined a government delegation led by Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake to Tokyo as the Vanni war entered a critical stage with UN agencies and INGOs quitting the LTTE-held area on a government request.
Well informed sources said that Chandrakanthan s inclusion in the delegation had underscored the government s commitment to a growing political relationship.
Responding to our queries, they said that the TMVP heavyweight s visit to Japan, one of the four co-chairs of the donor meeting underwriting Sri Lankan peace process, was important.
They explained that their relationship was gradually taking a political form with the recent elections to the Eastern Provincial Council. But the group would continue to carry arms as part of the overall government strategy to face the threat posed by small groups of LTTE operatives sent to destabilize the East.
A spokesperson for Tourism Minister Milinda Moragoda told The Sunday Island that EP Chief Minister s inclusion on the delegation was in line with Moragoda s policy of tapping the resources and expertise of all provinces for better exposure of the tourism sector.
The TMVP which contested the EP elections on the government ticket will receive a further boost through a fresh initiative launched by the US to spur economic development in the East.
The US embassy said on Friday that the USAID-led project would promote agriculture and agriculture-based business and improve the EP farmers access to markets. Emphasizing the need to address the disparity between the Western Province and the Eastern Province, the embassy said the project would be implemented by the US-based The Services Group in coordination with the Sri Lankan government and the EP Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Industrial Development.
Ministerial sources said that the US project would give a ``turbo boost to government efforts to revive the EP economy. The USAID project was evidence that the US, despite criticism of the activities of armed groups, had recognized efforts made by Sri Lanka to improve the situation in the East.