Meetings as troop relocation deadline is missed

[TamilNet, Friday, 02 August 2002, 00:32 GMT]
(News Feature) As the last of the stipulated deadlines for the Sri Lanka military to withdraw from civilian properties passed Thursday without the related terms of the government’s ceasefire agreement with the Liberation Tigers being implemented, international monitors met with senior LTTE officers to discuss the truce while Tamil parliamentarians protested to the Prime Minister.

The head of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM), Major General Tronde Furohovde met Thursday with the head of the LTTE’s political section, Mr. S. P. Tamilselvan. The Sea Tiger commander, Colonel Soosai, and LTTE’s Northern Flank commander, Colonel Theepan, also attended the 90-minute discussions at the movement’s political headquarters in Kilinochchi.

“The discussions centred on the implementation of the ceasefire agreement,” LTTE sources said. “Matters relating to the movement at sea by the LTTE were discussed at length. A solution to this is expected in the near future.”

"The LTTE agreed with 95 per cent of the conditions governing the sea movement, but the talks did not reach a conclusion," SLMM deputy chief Hugrup Haukland told the state-owned Daily News. However he said a settlement will be reached within next few days.

The SLMM sent both sides a six-page document containing conditions for the sea movement, but government is yet to respond to the SLMM proposals, the Daily News said Friday.

Meanwhile, a delegation of Tamil lawmakers who met Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe Thursday to review the progress of implementation of the ceasefire agreement condemned the military’s efforts to continue the occupation of the Tamil areas, thereby hampering the restoration of normalcy.

Sri Lanka’s Defence Minister, Tilak Marapana, Economics Reforms Minister Milinda Morogoda, Defence Secretary Austin Fernando, Interior Minister Secretary M. M. Junaid, the heads of the three armed forces and the Jaffna district Army commander, Major General Sarath Fonseka were present at the two hour meeting at the Premier’s official residence at Temple Trees.

The Tamil delegation, comprised Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MPs Rajavarothiam Sampanthan, V. Anandasangaree, Joseph Pararajasingham, Mavai Senathirajah, A.Vinayagamoorthy, N.Raviraj, Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam, Selvam Adaikalanathan, K.Thangavadivel, G.Krishnapillai and K.Thurairetnasingham.

The TNA delegation protested to the Prime Minister that relocating military camps adjacent to schools and places of worship vacated under the ceasefire agreement would certainly restrict the freedom of movement of the people in the area. The camps removed should be relocated far away from the schools and temples the SLA occupied, the MPs said.

The military’s refusal to withdraw from large areas through the simple expedient of declaring these as ‘high security zones,’ the MPs said.

The question of resettling large number of displaced Tamil families, such as in the Valigamam-North area which is in the high security zone, should be viewed on the basis that the Sri Lanka Army has no right to dictate terms to displaced where to live or not in their own land, the MPs said.

"It is the right of the displaced to tell the Sri Lanka Army where they should stay in the so-called high security zone as there is no war," Mr. Sampanthan said.

But defence secretary Austin Fernando, conveying the military’s stance, said the SLA would only allow resettlement in the Valigamam north according to terms ensuring the security of their installations.

Replying, Mr.Sampanthan said," we are not here to beg on behalf of the displaced from Valigamam north. They have every right to return to their land. The security forces cannot tell the displaced to live one thousand meters away from this end or one hundred meters from that end. The war is now over.”

"The displaced cannot be stopped from going back to their land, which was abandoned ten years ago due to massive military operation. They have been living in refugee camps for several years under trying conditions. They are now eagerly waiting to live in their houses, worship in their temples and cultivate their lands,” he said.

Mr.Sampanthan dismissed the military’s arguments that it has to be alert to a possible breakdown of the ceasefire due to the LTTE, saying: "the agreement states that parties should give fourteen days notice to abandon it. The SLA's position is that LTTE would abandon the ceasefire agreement suddenly without giving notice as stipulated. This shows that the government forces are not sincere in implementing the ceasefire agreement".

The government officials did not make any decision with regards to the resettlement of displaced people to homes in areas designated ‘high security zones.’

The delays in the implementation of the ceasefire has hampered the restoration of normalcy, which the Liberation Tigers insist must precede negotiations if they are to be meaningful.

Recently the LTTE reiterated its position on the restoration of normalcy as a necessary step to direct talks, but indicated it would not be looking for absolute results in this regard, comments which were last week welcomed by the SLMM as “responsible and sensible.”

The ceasefire agreement came into effect on February 23 (referred to as D-day in the document). “Places of worship (temples, churches, mosques and other holy sites, etc.) currently held by either of the parties shall be vacated by D-day + 30 and made accessible to the public,” the agreement states. “Beginning on the date on which this Agreements enters into force, school buildings occupied by either party shall be vacated and returned to their intended use. This activity shall be completed by D-day +160 [August 2] at the latest.”


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