Now, it seems the Aug. 12 assassination of Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, killed by a sniper outside his house in the capital Colombo, has achieved what so many deaths could not. Last week the government asked Norway, mediator of Sri Lanka's stalled peace talks, to invite the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (L.T.T.E.) to restart discussions on how to better implement a 2002 cease-fire. A senior Tiger source tells Time the rebel leadership accepted and that a meeting could take place in Oslo within weeks.
Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga has said the request was prompted by the death of Kadirgamar, an ethnic Tamil and one of the Tigers' fiercest critics. Although the L.T.T.E. has denied involvement, the killing left anti-Tamil sentiment boiling—posters proclaiming LET's BURY THE TIGERS appeared in Colombo after Kadirgamar's murder. "The two alternatives left to her were to engage in war or try reconciliation," says prominent businessman Mahendra Amarasuriya, chairman of Colombo-based Commercial Bank. The L.T.T.E. may face a similar dilemma: Elmore Perera, vice president of the pressure group Citizens' Movement for Good Governance, says it likely agreed to talks "because of the terribly adverse publicity the killing of Kadirgamar brought them." Sri Lanka is still a long way from peace, but it may be heading into calmer waters. With reporting by Aravind Adiga and Lasantha Wickrematunge