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SLMM ready to help warring Tigers patch up

The Nordic truce monitoring mission Sunday claimed that the warring LTTE factions were not interested in resolving their differences through negotiations.

Maj. General. Ulf Henricsson, the Swedish head of the five-nation mission, acknowledged that there was no evidence to suggest that they were willing to talk. Responding to a query raised by The Island, Henricsson, formerly of the Swedish Army, said that that there had been contacts with the group, led by Karuna, accused of collaborating with government security forces. He indicated a willingness on their part to help them if that was acceptable to both parties.

Addressing a meeting arranged by the Sri Lanka Sweden Friendship Association at the Hector Kobbekaduwa Agrarian Research and Training Institute, Henricsson referred to the recent admission made by Peace Secretariat Chief Palitha Kohona that there might be low level contacts between the military and Karuna loyalists, a claim hotly denied by the military top brass. "I know a little bit more," he said adding that he was all not that surprised over the alleged links between the military and Karuna loyalists.

He declined to comment on the LTTE claim that it has the sovereign rights to sea and air space. Henricsson said that particular question should be directed to the Norwegian facilitators. LTTE political wing leader S. P. Thamilchelvan on May 12 told Henricsson that nobody has the right to pass judgement on the sovereign rights of their access to the adjacent sea and airspace of their ‘homeland’. The meeting took place in Kilinochchi after the Scandinavian mission accused the LTTE of moving at sea with the aim of provoking the Sri Lankan navy and now finally embarking on an offensive operation against the navy sinking one vessel and putting SLMM monitors in grave danger.

The sea surrounding Sri Lanka is a Government Controlled Area. This has been ruled so by the Head of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission in line with international law. Non-state actors cannot rule open sea waters or airspace. The LTTE has therefore no rights at sea, Henricsson office said in a statement.

Sea Tiger bid to sink passenger ferry Pearl Cruise II carrying over 7oo off the northern coast on May 11 prompted Henricsson to suspend naval monitoring, an integral part of the process. He said that sea monitoring would begin once he received security guarantees from both parties to the February 2002 Oslo-arranged ceasefire agreement. According to him both parties were yet to provide the required guarantees.

His office earlier said, "The LTTE has made, what we feel are threats to our monitors warning them not to participate in patrols in Navy vessels. We take these threats very seriously and would like to remind the LTTE of its responsibility as an equal partner to the Ceasefire Agreement to do everything in its power not to jeopardise the monitors’ safety."

"We therefore demand that the LTTE immediately ceases all activities and operations at sea as they are a serious violation of the CFA. This sort of reckless behaviour can only lead to a dangerous escalation resulting in growing hostilities and jeopardising any possibility for future peace talks."

He declined to comment on the possible impact of the forthcoming EU ban on the LTTE would have on the activities of the monitoring mission. However he expressed confidence that it would not hamper the mission. The Charge d’Affairs of the Swedish embassy echoed Henricsson.

Dismissing criticism of the ceasefire agreement and monitoring mission, Henricsson pointed out that he did not have an armed force to enforce law and order. "I would like to have a 100,000 strong force but that was not an option," he said while expressing confidence in international backing for the Norwegian efforts. Responding to a query raised by Muhemmed Aejaz, first secretary of the Pakistan High Commission, Henricsson said that countries in the region should pressure both the government and the LTTE to adhere to the ceasefire agreement. Norway could not do her job without the support of India, he ascertained. Emphasising the Norwegian effort was fully backed by the international community and that no one would come forward if the Norwegians were kicked out.

He dismissed the perception that the head of the monitoring mission remains under Norwegian control. He insisted that he was the final authority.

He expressed concern over the ban on low level contacts with the military and the LTTE. It was a serious problem, he said. -Island- by Shamindra Ferdinando

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May 29, 2006 - Posted by | Media Journalism, News and politics, South Asia, World News

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