Military blocks LTTE commanders’ return
[TamilNet, Monday, 30 May 2005, 14:17 GMT]
Amid the continuing cycle of violence in Sri Lanka’s eastern province, hopes of improving trust between the Sri Lankan military and the Liberation Tigers are being undermined by Colombo’s refusal to provide safe passage to senior LTTE commanders and other cadres across Army-controlled areas, officials said. In the wake of the massacre of an LTTE political leader and his team when travelling by road through Army-controlled roads, there are accusations the use of helicopters is being denied to expose LTTE officials to paramilitary attack.
Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Defence has rejected the LTTE’s request for helicopters to move its top commanders for Trincomalee and Batticaloa-Amparai from Kilinochchi to their areas of command, the Sunday Times reported this week.
The paper said that the MoD has turned down a request for Colonel Sornam, the LTTE’s Trincomalee commander and four aides to be airlifted back to LTTE-controlled territory there.
“The MoD has also not yet taken a decision on another request for the [LTTE Batticaloa-Amparai Commander] Colonel Banu and five others to be airlifted from Kilinochchi to Karadiyanaru in Batticaloa,” the paper said.
“Another request that has been rejected is one to escort a group from Omanthai in the Wanni to the Black Bridge area in Batticaloa and back,” the paper said.
Two LTTE officials returning to Vanni from Europe are to be escorted to the Omanthai checkpoint in Vavuniya from Colombo, it also said.
LTTE requests for safe passage through Sri Lankan military controlled areas are made through the internationally staffed Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM).
Colonel Sornam and his team were airlifted by a Sri Lanka Air Force helicopter on May 2 to Kilinochchi. But the MoD is refusing a return airlift, citing tension prevailing in the Trincomalee district over the controversial Buddha statue erected in the multi-ethnic town without authorisation, the paper said.
Col Banu and his team were airlifted from Batticaloa to Kilinochchi on May 13. However, their request for a return flight on June 2 has not yet been granted, the Sunday Times said.
The MoD’s footdragging on arranging safe passage is, amid continuing violence between the Tamil paramilitaries which the LTTE says are being backed by the Sri Lanka Army, forcing senior LTTE officials to risk ambush whilst travelling by road.
In February, the LTTE’s top political leader in the Batticaloa-Amparai district. Mr. E. Kausalyan, and his team were gunned down by suspected Army-backed paramilitaries whilst returning by road from meetings with Norwegian diplomats in Kilinochchi.
Their vehicles were stopped on a road between two Sri Lanka Army camps and machine gunned. The military however denied involvement and blamed the LTTE for taking unnecessary risks.
“I don't understand why such a senior leader was traveling this way,'' Sri Lanka Army spokesman Daya Ratnayake told reporters in the wake of Kausalyan murder. “We have always provided them helicopters when they request it.”
The Sri Lankan military has meanwhile been complaining that the LTTE is refusing to meet with its commanders in the Batticaloa-Amparai region.
In a strongly worded statement, the Army protested last week that “LTTE since of recent times arbitrarily keeps off from attending formal monthly meetings generally summoned by SLMM to discuss security matters in the east.”
“LTTE representatives, for reasons obvious only to them, stopped from attending such discussions after the meeting they have had at Vavunathivu, Batticaloa on 12th November 2004,” the Army said.
The LTTE has said that it is pointless to have meetings whilst Sri Lankan military intelligence continues to support anti-LTTE militias in violation of the February 2002 ceasefire which stipulated its paramilitary units should be disarmed and disbanded or integrated into the regular Army.