SLA meets LTTE’s Northern Forces Commander

[TamilNet, Thursday, 12 September 2002, 17:08 GMT]
(Adds: Photo) The commander of the Northern Front Forces of the Liberation Tigers, Col. Theepan, had discussions with the commander of the Sri Lankan security forces in Jaffna, Major. Gen. Sarath Fonseka, Thursday evening to discuss the opening of the Pt. Pedro – Maruthankerni Road on Jaffna’s east coast and the positioning of Forward Defence Localities in the Nagar Kovil sector.

The Liberation Tigers say the SLA should open the coastal road to ease the difficulties civilians on Jaffna east coast face now due to the route being blocked by heavily mined defence positions.

Commander of the LTTE’s forward defence positions, Lt. Col. Arivu, Lt. Col. Lawrence, the Northern Front commander’s personal assistant, and Mr. Pulithevan and Mr. Eelamaranan, officials from the headquarters of the LTTE’s political division, accompanied Col. Theepan.

The SLA team comprised Major. Gen. Sarath Fonseka, Civil Affairs officer Brigadier Upali Edirisingha and Major K. Silva.

A Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission team led by its head, Maj. Gen. Furhovde, facilitated the meeting which was held in the no man’s land in Muhamalai from 5 p.m. to 6.30 p.m. Thursday.

Col. Theepan told Maj. Gen. Sarath Fonseka that the SLA in Nagar Kovil continues to maintain bunkers within hundred metres of the LTTE’s FDL in violation of the ceasefire agreement, despite the matter being brought to the Sri Lankan military’s notice on earlier occasions, sources said.

Article 1.4 (Separation of forces) of the Ceasefire Agreement between the LTTE and Colombo states: “Where forward defence localities have been established, the GOSL's armed forces and the LTTE's fighting formations shall hold their ground positions, maintaining a zone of separation of a minimum of 600 metres. However, each party reserves the right of movement within 100 metres of its own defence localities, keeping an absolute minimum distance of 400 metres between them. Where existing positions are closer than 400 metres, no such right of movement applies and the parties agree to ensure the maximum possible distance between their personnel”.

Both sides agreed during the discussions not to build new defence positions would be built in the Nagar Kovil sector in the future.

On the question of opening the Pt. Pedro Maruthankerni Road, Maj. Gen. Sarath Fonseka informed the LTTE delegation that the SLA is considering the matter and has begun removing land mines from the road. He said that extra troops have been despatched to the area to expedite the work.

An SLA officer in Jaffna told TamilNet Thursday evening the meeting was “very cordial and friendly”.

The Liberation Tigers say that civilians have to take a detour of more than 13 kilometres from Pt. Pedro to reach their villages in the Maruthankerni-Chempiyanpattu region on the peninsula’s southeastern coast because of the FDLs in Nagar Kovil.

The LTTE re-captured this region from the SLA after bitter fighting in March-April 2000.

Hundreds of families which fled the war are resettling in their villages here.

The LTTE says the re-settlers are facing a lot of hardship because the coastal road linking Jaffna and Vadamaradchi east (the administrative name of the region) is blocked by heavily mined SLA fortifications at Tharavai junction in the general area of Nagar Kovil.

Nagar Kovil was the most intensely contested sector of the lines separating the SLA from the military forces of the Liberation Tigers in the Jaffna peninsula until the signing of the ceasefire agreement in February this year.


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