LTTE blames SLN for sinking of merchant vessel
[TamilNet, Saturday, 14 June 2003, 16:19 GMT]
In a press release issued Saturday by the Political Head Quarters of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in Kilinochchi, LTTE said that it had informed the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission that SLN's sinking of LTTE's merchant vessel today is "a gross violation of the ceasefire agreement and if any harm were to befall the crew of the LTTE vessel then the sole responsibility for the events lay with the Sri Lanka Navy and that this incident would have very grave consequences."
The full text of the press release follows:
14 June 2003
LTTE Political Secretariat
An LTTE oil tanker vessel, MT Shoshin, was attacked and sunk by the Sri Lanka Navy in international waters 266 nautical miles off the coast of Mullaitivu (1147N.8431E) on Saturday (14/06/2003) morning.
The LTTE vessel was intercepted in international waters by a Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) deep sea patrol boat. The captain of the LTTE vessel allowed the SLN personnel to board and inspect the vessel. The LTTE leadership was notified of the events by the sea tigers. The LTTE lodged a complaint with the SLMM immediately and requested their intervention. Around 7.30 a.m., other SLN gunboats with ID numbers P701, P330, P332, P341 and; P340 approached the LTTE vessel to within close range and began firing indiscriminately at the LTTE vessel. Our crew was ordered by the Sri Lanka Navy personnel to take to the life rafts and abandon the ship. Our crew informed the LTTE peace secretariat of the developments and abandoned the ship and took to the life rafts as ordered.
LTTE again contacted the SLMM and asked them to visit the location of the incident to investigate and also requested the SLMM to ensure the safety of our crew and to prevent any maltreatment of the crew by the SLN.
Following this, two SLMM monitors were taken by the Sri Lanka Navy in a Dvora boat to a spot 110 nautical miles off the coast and were shown that this was the location of the incident. However, LTTE pointed out to the SLMM the exact coordinates where the incident took place 266 nautical miles off the coast of Mullaitivu. Two SLMM monitors were then sent to this location to investigate the matter. It became clear by then that the Sri Lanka Navy was trying to portray the incident as having taken place in seas under their control and this was made clear to the SLMM.
Further, the crew who took to the life rafts and asked to approach the SLN boats were arrested by the Navy. However, the SLN has indicated to the SLMM that they did not arrest any surviving members of the crew of the LTTE oil tanker.
The LTTE has categorically indicated to the SLMM that this incident where a LTTE merchant vessel had been attacked and sunk in international waters is a gross violation of the ceasefire agreement and if any harm were to befall the crew of the LTTE vessel then the sole responsibility for the events lay with the Sri Lanka Navy and that this incident would have very grave consequences.