SLMM clarifies issues in Proposals on Security at Sea

[TamilNet, Friday, 25 April 2003, 18:24 GMT]
The Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission issued a press release on 25 Friday clarifying issues in its proposals contained in the ‘Initial Discussion Paper’ that outlined arrangements to avoid future incidents at sea between the Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) and Sea Tigers.

The full text of the press release follows:

SLMM HQ Colombo Date: 25th April 2003

The Ceasefire in Sri Lanka is in force - Clarifications on Proposals on Security at Sea

The Ceasefire Agreement signed by the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam on February 22nd, 2002 is in force. Any suspension of planned sessions of Peace Talks has no impact on the validity of the Agreement or the adherence of the two Parties to the Ceasefire. Both Parties have confirmed this to Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM). SLMM will continue to monitor the Ceasefire and working on assisting the Parties in solving disputes that arise and normalizing the situation in the war torn areas in North and East Sri Lanka.

To prevent future incidents at sea that could threaten the stability of the Cease Fire, the Sixth Round of Peace Talks in Japan agreed; “to work out effective arrangements for the operation of their naval units in keeping with existing treaty obligations.” The Parties also agreed that SLMM should; “undertake preventive measures to avoid serious incidents at sea and on land”. Recent days have seen strong reactions to isolated points of the Initial Discussion Paper that SLMM prepared as a basis for discussion on these arrangements. In that context SLMM would like to make the following clarifications.

When the Ceasefire Agreement was signed on the 22nd of Feb 02, the LTTE fighting formations, including the Sea Tigers, existed. Consequently, the LTTE Sea Tigers exists as a De Facto Naval Unit. (In the Oxford Advanced Dictionary “De Facto” is defined as follows: “Existing as a fact although it may not be legally accepted as existing”). These are the reasons why SLMM has been tasked to work out these arrangements. SLMM would like to emphasize that the LTTE Sea Tigers has neither legal rights nor any legitimate tasks of safeguarding the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka. These obligations belong purely to the Forces of the Government of Sri Lanka. Balance of power is one of the basic elements for the present Ceasefire. Hence, to maintain their Forces’ capabilities both Parties must have the right to carry out training and exercise in designated areas. Such exercises and training should cause minimum disturbance to the normal life, i.e. fisheries. In this context it should also be noted that there are no requirements in the Ceasefire Agreement to demobilize any of the LTTE military units, including the LTTE Sea Tigers. Final composition of The Sri Lanka Armed Forces should be reached at the Peace Talks.

The Initial Discussion Paper was not a legal document, but a basis for discussion. SLMM has already received suggestions from both Parties and adjusted the document. The second draft of proposals has been sent to the Parties, requesting them to forward their comments to SLMM not later than 30th April. After that SLMM intends to have separate discussions with the Parties on these arrangements and has suggested a meeting between senior naval and political representatives from both Parties, the Norwegian facilitator and SLMM at Omantai crossing point on the 7th of May 2003. SLMM will not and cannot impose any solutions on the Parties, as all solutions will have to depend on their mutual agreement. SLMM fully supports a constructive democratic debate on issues of national concern. However, SLMM discourages the behaviour of intentionally misinterpreting matters of sensitive nature and taking them out of context in order to further a specific political agenda.

Finally it should be reiterated that the role of the Sri Lanka Navy is clearly stated in article 1.3 of the Ceasefire Agreement and was also included in the Initial Discussion Paper on measures for preventing incidents at sea. From SLMM point of view it is of the utmost importance that the mechanisms and arrangements specified in any final arrangements agreed upon must not interfere with the Sri Lanka Navy’s obligation and legitimate task of safeguarding the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka.

 

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