LTTE ready to help facilitate voting - Thamilchelvan

[TamilNet, Friday, 12 March 2004, 00:10 GMT]
"We told the [Norwegian] delegation that we are agreeable to locating the voting booths in the no-man zone, inside our checkpoint area or in the checkpoint area of the Sri Lanka Army (SLA), and that we will provide our full support and required assistance to implement voting procedures, and supervise voting," said S.P.Thamilchelvan, leader of the LTTE's political wing, answering questions from the press following his meeting with the Norwegian delegation in Kilinochchi Thursday morning.

Excerpts of exchanges between Thamilchelvan and reporters follow:

Reporter: Can you give us brief details about today's meeting?
Thamilchelvan: Today's meeting with Norwegian Ambassador and Norwegian peace envoy Eric Solheim was planned earlier. Since new and pressing issues have come-up, especially thesituation in Batticaloa-Amparai district, we discussed this matter in detail. The Batticaloa-Amparaidistrict commanders explained to the Norwegian delegation the issues and situation in Batticaloa-Amparai. We also explained to them the position of our leadership and the decisions we have taken in this matter.

Reporter: Did you make any requests to the delegation related to Mr.Karuna?
Thamilchelvan: Even before the meeting the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission and Norway have taken some clear, and in our view appropriate, decisions. They have discontinued any communications with Karuna and to anyone in his area, and have also taken steps to avoid future contacts. They are already operating in a way that is consistent with our thinking and have demonstrated a clear understanding of the undercurrents of the crisis.

Reporter: The Norwegian delegation said that three important issues were discussed. Can you give us details on these?
Thamilchelvan: First was the Batticaloa-Amparai situation as I said earlier. Secondly, we stressed that during the forthcoming elections people living under our areas should be able to freely exercise their franchise. We also discussed the need to allow our people to express their aspirations in this climate of peace. The Norwegian delegation said that the international community is well aware of this concern. They [Norwegians] have assured us that they will continue their efforts to create the environment to facilitate this. Thirdly, the urgent need to rehabilitate and develop our homeland. We have discussed this several times. We requested their help in garnering support of the international community to help us in developing our region.

Reporter: What have you discussed related to the elections and the right to vote?
Thamilchelvan: Our leadership has taken a clear stand on this. That is we are prepared lend our full support to any arrangement that will allow our people to exercise freely their franchise. We told the delegation that we are agreeable to locating the voting booths in the no-man zone, inside our checkpoint area or in the checkpoint area of the Sri Lanka Army (SLA), and that we will provide our full support and required assistance to implement voting procedures, and supervise voting. The delegation assured that they will work with the authorities concerned to facilitate an environment that allows everyone to exercise their right to vote.

Reporter: SLA Northern commander is reported to have said that people who enter the SLA checkpoint to vote will not be checked. Have you received any notification of this decision?
Thamilchelvan: We have not been informed officially of their position. But what we are making clear is that if the SLA takes the position to conduct the same checking procedures, that is if they insist on frisking everyone before one is allowed to vote, then the thousands of people who have the right to vote will not be able to vote. We would regard this as a serious violation of fundamental rights of people, the right to exercise franchise.

Reporter: The LTTE leadership has relieved Karuna of his reponsibilities and have indicated that the leadership will be prepared to offer amnesty to him. But Karuna has rejected this offer. What will happen next?
Thamilchelvan: Karuna not only has been relieved of his responsibities, he has been removed from the movement. He is now a single individual accused of several violations against the movement's code of conduct. By rejecting to abide by the movement's ruling he is pushing himself into a dangerous corner. However, cognizant of the prevailing peace, our leadership is taking careful steps to bring the Batticaloa-Amparai area back into control without any bloodshed or danger to our cadres. Cadres under Karuna's command are distancing and deserting him gradually. Karuna is increasingly facing danger from among his own group of cadres.

Reporter: Will you conduct further investigations on Karuna?
Thamilchelvan: Several eastern commanders and associates of Karuna have provided irrefutable evidence supporting Karuna's violations of our movements rules. Based on these evidences our leadership decided to remove Karuna from our movement.

Reporter: Karuna still in control of resources belonging to the movement. How is this going to be resolved?
Thamilchelvan: Karuna has created barriers preventing his fighters from finding out real reasons for the crisis. He may get away with this for a short period but will not be able to sustain this for long. New administration is determined to bring our national resources, back into our fold soon.


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