LTTE, military discuss recent violence as conspiracy suspected
[TamilNet, Monday, 01 July 2002, 02:43 GMT]
(News Feature) The leaders of the Liberation Tigers' political section in the Amparai-Batticaloa region, Mr. Visu (Head) and Mr. Thurai (Deputy Head) met senior Sri Lankan security officials late Friday night and Saturday to discuss last week's violence in Valaichenai and to seek ways to avoid a repetition of such incidents in the future. Meanwhile LTTE officials in the east, the leader of Sri Lanka’s largest Muslim party, Mr. Rauf Hakeem, and the Interior Minister, John Amaratunga, said this weekend that elements opposed to the peace process had instigated the recent chain of violence in the eastern province.
Sri Lanka Army (SLA) Maj. Gen. Sunil Tennekoon, GOC 23 division, Col. V.L. Rohan Anthoniz, commander of the 23-3 brigade, and Col. Gunasekara, the civil coordinating officer in Batticaloa, met with Mr. Visu and Mr. Thurai Saturday at the Lake Inn Restaurant in Batticaloa. The meeting Friday night was held at a private house.
Saying that that peace and calm could be restored in only with the cooperation of the Liberation Tigers, Col. Gunasekara said that Mr. Visu agreed to jointly visit to trouble spots with the security forces in the future and help establish control if such situations arose.
“Because we have reached an agreement with the Tigers to meet directly and solve problems through talks, the situation has been created whereby people can talk to the Tigers or to us and solve their problems,” Col. Gunasekara said.
Mr. Visu and Mr. Thurai also visited Valaichenai Saturday morning and studied the conditions there for themselves. The vehicle in which the they were travelling was given protection by the Sri Lankan security forces. The burnt out shops, houses and public buildings made the town look shattered, sources said.
The LTTE officials met with Tamil people in the area and listened to their complaints and requested the people to remain patient. The people told them that the violence went on even as the armed forces and the police were present, that they suspected police of complicity in the violence.
Their distrust of the Sri Lankan security forces and police was the major reason that they had not reported their losses in the violence to the police. The LTTE leaders recorded the people’s complaints and assured them that they would take action and follow up on their complaints.
In their discussion with the senior military officials, the LTTE leaders demanded an immediate transfer of all policemen present at the Valaichenai police station and a public inquiry into the riots, the Virakesari newspaper reported Sunday. They also demanded action against those who perpetrated and instigated it, making clear that the transfer of police personnel was not the end of it.
The paper said that it has come to light that the violence started after Muslim organizations in the Batticaloa district called for a hartal, and two transport buses and a van belonging to the New Eastern Bus Company, all belonging to Tamils, were attacked. Three Tamil people were injured in a grenade attack and some shops owned by Tamils were set on fire during the hartal. It was this initial violence directed against Tamil people that escalated the riots, the paper said.
Meanwhile, Minister Rauff Hakeem and the President of the Batticaloa chamber of commerce also visited the eastern town in the afternoon. Minister Hakeem listened to Muslim and Tamil complaints. He requested the traders to provide a list through the government agent of the losses their businesses had sustained in the violence, and assured them that he would provide rehabilitation aid or compensation without regard to their religion or race.
The Sunday Times said Mr. Hakeem blamed forces in the south who he alleged were out to disturb the peace process for the violence. He charged these elements were using the Muslim to achieve their ends.
Sri Lanka’s interior minister, John Amaratunga who visited the violence-hit Mutur area last Thursday said the government also believed there was a hidden hand behind the string of violent incidents in the east last week.
The Liberation Tigers’ political section in Trincomalee also blamed forces opposed to peace for instigating and orchestrating the communal violence which left up to six people dead and a hundred wounded last week.
“We can sense a few racists and chauvinists are involved in work to wreck the ceasefire accord. The attack on our members in the [Jaffna islands] area and the damage caused to our office in Muthur were the work of such people,” he said.
“Our Muthur office, situated in Aalaiyady, was attacked by a gang calling itself the 'Osama Group' last Friday. This incident indicates the will of some elements that the agreement should be wrecked, war should re-start and the cordial relations between the Tamil and Muslim communities should collapse.”
“It is to be noted that this office in situated in a predominantly Muslim area and remains under the firm control of the police and the Sri Lanka army. But claims that the police couldn't arrest the attackers while they spent half hour in our office, that perpetrators cannot be identified by local Muslims and that a small group was responsible cannot be accepted,” the statement by the LTTE’s Trincomalee office said.