STF ‘deliberately’ violated ceasefire - SLMM
[TamilNet, Thursday, 30 May 2002, 20:13 GMT]
The arrest and torture of a member of the Liberation Tigers by the elite Special Task Force (STF) constituted a deliberate breach of the permanent ceasefire according to the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM), as the troops had penetrated over one kilometre into LTTE-held territory to carry out the attack.
During the incident at Kanchirankudah, Thirukovil last week, STF troopers arrested Mr. Yogarajah Kanthakumar (Kopan), an LTTE member ostensibly for riding a motorcycle without a helmet. He was severely beaten before being taken and handed to the Police in government controlled Akkaraipatu with his hands tied behind and a cloth stuffed in the mouth. Mr. Kanthakumar was later produced released on Rs. 10000 bail.
The SLMM ruled that the STF had violated the ceasefire as article 1.4 of the agreement stipulates that a zone of separation of 600 metres must be maintained between the armed forces of both sides and the troops had an area 1,500 meters from their defence lines to seize the LTTE cadre.
Furthermore, with traffic duties not coming under the duties of the counter-insurgency force, the STF had deliberately sought to violate the agreement, the SLMM felt.
Having investigated a formal complaint by the LTTE, Mr. Erkki Platan, the head of the SLMM's Batticaloa office, is said to have informed SLMM headquarters in Colombo and the SLMM office in Kilinochi about his findings.
“The STF had gone to Veeramunai and threatened the poor villagers about the hartal they observed last week,” said Mr. S. Soundaranayakam, the LTTE representative with the Batticaloa SLMM told journalists. “Protesting through a hartal is a fundamental democratic right of the people. The STF seems intent on disrupting the peace process.”
The attack on Mr. Kanthakumar provoked demonstration against the STF by the public. STF troops fired on protestors, wounding two people - a 12-year old student, Ranjan Mano (and 24-year-old K Surenthirakumar - and triggering riots and violent protests.
Protestors burnt tires in Batticaloa town and several places in the Ampara district. More than ten thousand students from 52 schools in the Thirukkovil education zone, 78 kilometres south of Batticaloa, marched and demonstrated Thursday against the STF.
Angry protestors who came out in support of the students blocked traffic on 34 kms of the main road on the island's southeast coast by burning tires at key junctions between Neelavanai and Akkaraipattu. The market and shops were closed in Kalmunai, the main town of the region, 40 kilometres south of Batticaloa.
In one incident, STF troops driving an APC scattered a crowd and then deliberately ran over thirty bicycles left behind by the fleeing protestors, Ariyanayagam Chandrenehru, MP, told journalists, adding he would raise the matter with the SLMM.
Amid a general hartal (shutdown) called by several civil society groups, including the Eastern University Society (EUS), the Batticaloa Students' Union and the Ceylon Tamil Teachers' Union schools, government offices, shops and businesses in the Batticaloa district and the Tamil region of the Amparai district were closed Friday.