Death of voice of Tamil struggle a new blow to peace in Sri Lanka

COLOMBO, Dec 15, 2006 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s moribund peace process suffered another setback with the death of the top Tamil Tiger negotiator who was regarded as a moderate among hardliners, analysts said Friday.

Anton Balasingham, 68, who had spearheaded the peace efforts of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), died of bile duct cancer at his London home on Thursday.

“Balasingham had an institutional memory and it would be very difficult for the LTTE to replace him,” said Sunanda Deshapriya, a director at the independent think-tank Centre for Policy Alternatives.

“He was someone who was amenable to negotiations and was willing to show flexibility. To find a political figure like him would be a serious challenge to the Tigers. His death is a setback to the peace process.”

Tiger chief Velupillai Prabhakaran mourned the death saying it came at a time when the LTTE needed Balasingham’s skills more than ever.

“A source of unwavering strength in the political and diplomatic efforts of our freedom movement, and the light of our nation is extinguished,” Prabhakaran said in a statement.

“It is an irreplaceable loss for our entire nation and for me,” he said from rebel-held territory in the