Islands imbroglio continues amid new conditions

[TamilNet, Thursday, 30 May 2002, 18:52 GMT]
(News Feature) The Sri Lanka Navy continued to resist entry of political cadres of the Liberation Tigers into the islands off the Jaffna peninsula, press reports said this week. In the latest development in the acrimonious and long running saga, the Sri Lankan government backed the Navy, insisting that the LTTE's activists must accept twelve conditions if they are to get access to the tens of thousands of Tamil people who inhabit the islands.

Under the terms of the permanent ceasefire signed by the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers in February, political cadres of the LTTE are able to engage in duties in military held areas.

However, soon after the first batch of LTTE cadres entered Army-held Jaffna, the Navy barred them from the islets of the peninsula's western coast, declaring the region a ëmilitary zone.' LTTE cadres who attempted to visit Kayts,the largest of the islets, on April 12 were blocked by Navy guards.

The LTTE has formally protested to the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM), which is tasked with resolving breaches of the ceasefire. Civil society organisations in the islets also protested the military's stance. With the matter becoming increasingly acrimonious, Minister Milinda Moragoda visited the area in the middle of May to urge Navy commanders to end their resistance.

But recently growing optimism that the issue was resolved were dashed this week when in a letter to the Deputy Head of the SLMM, Hagrup Hauckland, the director of the government's Peace Secretariat (which comes under the Prime Minister's Office), Mr. Bernard Goonetillake, outlined the fresh conditions the LTTE must accept.

Following are the conditions stipulated by the SLN and communicated to the LTTE through the Sri Lankan government's Peace Secretariat and the SLMM Wednesday evening.

1. LTTE cadres should possess relevant documents to identify themselves.

2. They should restrict their political work between 8.00 am and 6.00 p.m.

3. They are not permitted to carry arms, telecommunication equipment or cyanide capsules.

4. A member of the SLMM should accompany them.

5. A 48-hour notice should be served before entering the islets.

6. They should pass only through Allaipitti Navy check point to enter the islands.

7. They will not be allowed near security force bases, divisions, camps or wherever the security forces are on duty but they can use alternate roads to enter villages.

8. The number of LTTE cadres will depend on the number of people residing in each islet. The maximum numbers specified in the conditions are: Kayts (50), Punkudutivu (10), Nainativu (10), Evaluative (10), Analativu (5), Delft (50), and Karainagar (50).

9. If the LTTE cadres do not leave the islets within the specified time period, it will be brought to the notice of the SLMM.

10. Unless these cadres remaining in the islets leave, no other LTTE cadre will be allowed in for whatever purpose.

11. They should strictly obey the ordinary laws of the country, they are permitted only to engage in political work. They should desist from engaging in activities specified in clauses 2.1, 2.2 of the cease-fire agreement.

12. LTTE would not be allowed to enter the island of Mandaithivu. The people of Mandaithivu will be allowed to go for political meetings in Kayts and Punguduthivu.

Furthermore, although the Navy appears to have stepped down from declaring all the islands as a single 'military zone,' a new innocuous restriction that LTTE cadres should restrict their movements to main roads and civilian areas is complicated by the Navy's arbitrary declaration of civilian areas as 'military zones.'

Although under the ceasefire agreement, Tamil paramilitaries working with the security forces should have been disarmed, the Eelam People's Democratic Party (EPDP) controls large areas of the island, residents said.

The Navy's efforts to prevent LTTE cadres from accessing the region is to enable the EPDP's continuing presence, they said.

A team of senior Navy officers recently visited areas currently controlled by the EPDP, and decided to declare all landing points and buildings there as official Navy control, including the landing point near the Kayts Kannaki Amman Temple.

Meanwhile, in a meeting with the SLMM at the Navy base in Kansesanthurai, Navy Commander Rear Admiral S. P. Weerasekara said that he would not permit LTTE cadres to carry their cyanide capsules as these "can be used as a weapon to kill."

The LTTE's nominee to the SLMM team, Father Benedict Gnanaratnam, objected to the Commander's assertion and said that the Tigers carry the cyanide pills to avoid being captured alive and that they could not use the capsules as weapons.


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