‘Col. Karuna’s approach very positive’ -Maj. Gen. Kottegoda
[TamilNet, Wednesday, 20 November 2002, 13:25 GMT]
“I think Col. Karuna’s approach is very positive. If we continue in this manner we should be able to sort out a lot of issues pertaining to de-escalation and normalisation,” said Maj. Gen. Shantha Kottegoda of the Sri Lanka army, speaking to the press Wednesday at the conclusion of the meeting of the Batticaloa District Committee of the Sub-Committee on De-escalation and Normalisation held in Vavunathivu, 5 kilometres southwest of Batticaloa, near the line of control.
The Liberation Tigers urged representatives of the Sri Lankan armed forces to ease the burden of the Batticaloa public by vacating 345 private homes, more than 30 public buildings and by removing speed breakers and roadblocks.
SLA’s Maj. Gen. Shantha Kottegoda shaking hand with Col. Karuna at the meeting in Vavunathivu, Wednesday.
During the discussions, the Sri Lanka army agreed in principle to vacate the Batticaloa Fort in which the Batticaloa District Secretariat also functions and the Bar Road branch of the town’s Municipal Library which has been occupied by the Sri Lanka Police since 1990, sources said.
The Sri Lankan security forces delegation told Col. Karuna that it would be difficult for the troops and Police personnel occupying public buildings and private homes to leave until Colombo is able to find alternative places and funds for relocating camps.
“We understand the difficulties the Sri Lankan armed forces face in immediately vacating all the public buildings currently occupied by them. We have brought to their notice the issues that cause inconvenience to the public in Batticaloa. They have agreed to take some steps to ease the problems faced by the people. But we cannot expect them to do it quickly given the Sri Lankan government’s financial constraints and other problems. Nevertheless the talks today were positive and cordial,” Col. Karuna told the press after the meeting.
SLMM officials preparing the document that both parties signed at the end of the meeting.
The senior LTTE commander said Muslims in the district are free to cultivate in any part of the district where they legally own land.
Mr. Heikki Hulkkonen, the head of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission in Batticaloa, chaired Wednesday’s meeting.
(L to R) Ms. Nilavini, Lt. Col. Ramesh, Mr. Kousalyan and Col. Karuna during the discussions.
Col. Karuna was assisted in the talks Wednesday by Lt. Col. Ram, the commander of the Jeyanthan Brigade, Lt. Col. Ramesh, the special commander of the Batticaloa-Amparai District, Mr. Kausalyan, the head of the LTTE’s political division in Batticaloa and Ms. Nilavini, the commander of the women’s units of the LTTE’s armed forces in the eastern district and other political and military officials.
The Sri Lankan delegation was led by Maj. Gen. Shantha Kottegoda.
He was assisted by Rear Admiral S. P Weesekera, Brigadier. S. R Balasuriya, Brig. P. Chandrawansa and the Sri Lanka army’s Batticaloa brigade commander, Col. G.P.R De Silva and Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) for Batticaloa Mr. H.V. P. L De Silva, SSP (ret) Mr. M. Abdul Majeed, the Government Agent for Batticaloa, Mr. R. Mounagurusamy and several Sri Lankan armed forces officers.
The GOSL delegation during the discussions. SSP (ret) Mr. M. A Majeed (second from left)
Maj. Gen. Shantha Kottegoda and SSP (ret) Mr. M. A Majeed were formerly senior intelligence officers with Sri Lanka’s National Intelligence Bureau (NIB - now reorganised as the Directorate of Internal Intelligence and Directorate of External Intelligence)
“Both LTTE and Government of Sri Lanka Delegation were well prepared and had specific requests that could easily be decided upon. Both parties showed understanding of each other’s difficulties and made their recommendations to the benefit of the public by consensus. It is the evaluation of the SLMM that during this meeting both parties demonstrated a clear will and capability to find realistic solutions to the matters discussed,” said the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission in a release issued to the press at the conclusion of the meeting.