Sri Lanka can arm but LTTE cannot – SLMM chief

[TamilNet, Friday, 27 May 2005, 14:56 GMT]
Asked how the reported acquisition of one or two aircraft by the Liberation Tigers could be deemed a violation of the ceasefire agreement, when the massive acquisition of weaponry by the Sri Lankan state was not counted as a violation, the head of the international truce monitors in Sri Lanka, Hagrup Haukland, said Thursday that the Sri Lankan government had a legitimate right to arm itself, while the LTTE did not.

The Sri Lankan government had the legitimate responsibility for the defence of Sri Lanka and all of Sri Lanka, its land, sea and air and thus it had a much larger responsibility than the LTTE, the head of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) was quoted as telling the Foreign Correspondents' Association (FCA) in Colombo.

"The acquisition of aircraft by an organisation like the LTTE means a lot. It is a serious matter, which impinges on Sri Lanka's security. India is concerned too," Mr. Haukland was quoted by press reports, including one in the Hindustan Times, as saying.

“The skies over Sri Lanka were under the sovereign control of the government of Sri Lanka. Any flying in Sri Lankan skies would have to have the express sanction of the Sri Lankan government. As for the use of international air space, that was also controlled by international agreements. Flying by an unrecognised group like the LTTE would therefore be against international law,” Mr. Haukand was quoted as saying.

“The LTTE is recognised only in so far as the ethnic conflict and the peace process in Sri Lanka are concerned,” he said.

Mr. Haukland said that the SLMM had not actually seen the aircraft the LTTE is alleged to possess and therefore could not say if they existed or not.

“We do not know if they have an aircraft," Mr. Haukland said, adding he himself had seen an airfield from a helicopter but did not see any aircraft there.

Asked what would happen if the Sri Lankan Air Force were to bomb the LTTE airbase, Haukland said: "That would be war."

 

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