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Tigers, GOSL optimistic after first defence meet

[TamilNet, Sunday, 10 November 2002, 13:39 GMT]
The Liberation Tigers and the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) said they were confident of making further progress in stabilising the island’s peace process on the ground as their high-level defence teams wound up four hours of talks in Omanthai, 18 kilometres north of Vavuniya, on the line of control, Sunday.

Senior military commanders of the Liberation Tigers led by Col. V. Karuna took up the issue of resettling thousands of Internally Displaced Persons in the northeast and the removing restrictions on fishing with their Sri Lankan counterparts.


Col Karuna and Major. Gen. Shantha Kotegoda (right).
Senior LTTE commandar Col Karuna shakes hand with Major. Gen. Shantha Kottegoda. Mr. Austin Fernando, Secretary to Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Defence is seen in the centre.
“The meeting was successful for the simple reason that it was cordial. We started talking to each other quite openly and I think it should be considered as a successful one. We came to some decisions about the meetings to be held in the future. Then we worked on issues such as fishing, the return of IDPs. All that was discussed and we have decided to hold district level meetings in Jaffna, Vavuniya, Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Ampara. As we go on, I think we will get better results out of the issues we have looked at (today),” said Mr. Austin Fernando, Secretary to Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Defence, speaking to presspersons when the meeting concluded around 3.35 p.m. Sunday.

During the discussions, Lt. Col. Seliyan, the commander of the attack groups of the Sea Tigers, brought up the problems faced by fishermen in Kayts, Punguduthivu, Karainagar, and Mathagal in Jaffna due to restrictions that are still imposed on them by the Sri Lanka Navy. It was agreed in principle to lift the restrictions and permit fishing in the sea round the clock.

“But the location of the eight entry points from where fishermen can set out to sea round the clock would be announced on 13 November when Rear Admiral S. P Weerasekara is scheduled to hold talks at Muhamalai on issues related to fishing in Jaffna with the LTTE’s northern front forces commander Col. Theepan and Lt. Col. Seliyan”, sources said.

Col. Theepan, the commander of the LTTE’s northern front forces pointed out to the GOSL team that Sri Lankan armed forces occupy 35 percent of the densely populated Valigamam division of Jaffna.

“It is the wish of our leader and our organisation that normalcy should restored to ensure the well being of our people. We emphasised this at the talks today. These talks should fulfil the basic aspirations and guarantee the fundamental rights of our people,” said Mr. Pulithevan, the secretary of the LTTE’s Peace Secretariat.

The LTTE’s team led by senior commander Col. Karuna comprised the commander of its northern front forces, Col. Theepan, the commander of its western front forces, Col. Jeyam, the commander of LTTE forces in Trincomalee, Col. Pathuman, Lt. Col. Seliyan, the head of LTTE’s political division in Trincomalee, Mr. Thilak, head of political division in Batticaloa, Mr. Kousalyan, head of political division in Vavuniya, Mr. Elilan, head of political division in Jaffna, Mr. Ilamparithi and Mr. Pulithevan.

The Sri Lanka team led by Mr. Austin Fernando comprised Major. Gen. Shantha Kottegoda, Maj. Gen S. R Balasuriya, Rear Admiral S. P Weerasekera, Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) of the STF Mr. Nimal Lewke, Kalmaunai, Kalmunai SSP M. A Majeed, Group Captain Kolitha Gunatilake of the Sri Lanka Air Force and Brig. (ret) Devinda Kalupahana.

Mr. Pulithevan came for meeting with the Norwegian Ambassador Jon Westborg and other officials of the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Colombo. Head of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission Trond Furhovde was also present.

The Tamil Eelam Police provided tight security to the meeting.

 

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