Jaffna SLMM discusses complaints over military action
[TamilNet, Thursday, 25 April 2002, 13:26 GMT]
The head of the international peace-monitoring mission promised Wednesday to bring the tension prevailing in the islets around Jaffna to the attention of the Sri Lankan government, press reports in the northern peninsula said Thursday. Norwegian General (Retd) Trond Fuhrhovde made his comments at a meeting of Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) officials in Jaffna, the Uthayan reported.
The Additional Government Agent for Jaffna Mr T Vaithilingam chaired the meeting to discuss ways of implementing the terms of the two-month old ceasefire agreement.
Matters brought to the attention of the SLMM included the ban on civilian travel along the A9 at weekends by Sri Lanka armed forces and harassment of civilians by Sri Lanka Navy personnel manning a checkpoint en-route to Allaipiddy.
The Tamil Tiger representative of the SLMM, Rev Father Gnanaratnam, criticsed the Navy for preventing LTTE political cadres from entering Allaipiddy to undertake their duties. The Uthayan quoted General Fuhrhovde as saying these concerns would be raised with the secretary for Sri Lanka's ministry of defence and the appropriate actions taken.
Tensions ran high in Allaipiddy earlier in the week when Sri Lanka naval personnel manning a checkpoint on the route to the island insisted a busload of civilians alight so as to be searched, the paper said.
The incident on Monday began when the bus carrying government workers and other civilians approached the checkpoint at around 9 am. Its occupants were then ordered to alight and walk for 30 metres to be searched.
The passengers refused, citing the ceasefire meant no such checks were necessary. They told the naval personnel to board the bus and search them if they wished. The passengers then demanded to see the officer in charge when the navy personnel refused to allow the bus to pass. A bitter argument developed between the officer and the bus's occupants when he maintained the same line as his men.
The argument then continued between the naval officer and Velanai District Secretary S.Ratnam who took up the case while passing by.
The Navy maintained that the checks were necessary to prevent from Tiger cadres entering the islet with cyanide capsules and telecommunication equipment. The passengers were told the Tigers might even launch a suicide attack and hence no one would be allowed through unless they cooperated with the checks.
Some passengers in the bus pointed out that Tamil Tigers who were welcomed in Jaffna by the commander of the Sri Lanka army were carrying cyanide capsules and telecommunication equipment.
The government workers and others in the bus finally agreed to the navy's orders but said they would stay away from their workplaces if this practice continued in the future. They were allowed through after rigorous searches.
The commander of the Sri Lanka navy in Jaffna visited Allaipiddy later that day to meet the Velanai District Secretary and government officials to assure that government workers would not be required to alight their busses in the future for checks. The order would be communicated to his junior officers, he said.
The workers later that day complained to the visiting SLMM team about the continuing harassment and threats by the Sri Lanka military that was preventing Tamil residents who fled that area from resettling. In the one-hour meeting they also complained that these action were the main reason for the islets being under developed than the mainland.
Government officials and other workers in Jaffna have appealed for civilian travel to be allowed through Muhamalai on the A9 at weekends to enable them to travel for leisure. The Sri Lanka Army's current restriction on travel only between 8.30 am and 4.30 pm on weekdays mean they are unable to use the road they say.