Feature Article

We trapped and split LTTE, sank their ships, says UNP

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 08 November 2005, 00:18 GMT]
Sri Lanka’s opposition United National Party this week claimed credit for engineering a split within the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) through the peace process whilst at the same time keeping the movement locked in via an international security net. The UNP also claimed credit for the sinking of LTTE vessels during the peace talks.

Milinda MoragodaUNP stalwart Milinda Moragoda, a close confidante of the party’s Presidential candidate, Ranil Wickremesinghe, was one of the negotiators who represented his government in six rounds of talks with the LTTE between September 2002 and March 2003.

In an interview with the Daily Mirror published Tuesday, Mr. Moragoda said the UNP would review the ceasefire it had signed with the LTTE and crackdown to end a spate of killings the Army blames on the Tigers, but international monitors say is part of a cycle of mutual attacks in an ongoing ‘subversive war.’

“There is a difference between the rule of a democratically elected government and that of a rebel group,” Mr. Moragoda said of the LTTE. “The government has to ensure that the writ of the government is run in the government controlled areas.”

He rejected accusations by Sinhala ultra-nationalists, including Mr. Wickremesinghe’s main opponent, that the UNP government had weakened Sri Lanka’s national security when it signed a ceasefire with the LTTE in February 2002.

“It should be remembered how active our naval forces were when we were in power,” Mr. Moragoda said, referring to the sinking of two LTTE merchant vessels in international waters in March and June 2003.

“There was so much of activity and with the help of the international intelligence network that we had set up, our navy managed to intercept several LTTE arm ships.”

“But we hardly heard about such interceptions after the UPFA came into power,” Mr. Moragoda said of the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA), which toppled the UNP-led one in April 2004.

He also denied reports the UNP was planning to downsize the Army: “We in fact feel that we need more soldiers and that is why we launched several recruitment drives when in office.”

“Our efforts to further strengthen the military based on the advice of international military experts, especially from the US and India, had been misinterpreted and given some twists,” he said referring to reports quoting UNP officials as saying its government had envisaged Indian and US troops fighting the LTTE.

But at the same time Mr. Moragoda said the UNP had enmeshed the LTTE’s armed struggle in “an international safety net” and thereby prevented a return to war.

Asked why he though the ceasefire had survived this long, he replied: “Purely because of the international safety net that we managed to muster. If not for that by now we would have reverted back to war.”

“Mr. Wickremesinghe at the very outset saw through the challenges and made it a point to garner the support of the leading international players as guarantors of the peace process,” he said.

Mr. Moragoda defended the February 2002 ceasefire agreement, saying “everybody is finding fault with the clauses in the ceasefire agreement still nobody wants to do away with that … end of this ceasefire means war.”

“However there is no doubt about the fact that we have to review the agreement to suit the new challenges of the process. This is a fact accepted by all parties including the LTTE,” he said.

The LTTE has however refused to contemplate reviewing or altering the agreement and instead have sought discussions on the lack of implementation by the UNP and UPFA governments of several key clauses.

Further rejecting accusations by the UNP’s critics that the party had strengthened the LTTE through the peace process Mr. Moragoda instead said the party had fostered fissures within the LTTE, referring in particular to the rebellion against the organisation’s leadership by its former eastern commander, Karuna.

“Mr. Wickremesinghe always says that we have to create the right environment so that the LTTE would not be able to behave the way it does,” he said.

“A dissident Karuna would most probably have never emerged in a war situation. By silencing guns, by opening roads and removing barricades we created an environment that offered alternatives to the most ruthless of the LTTE cadres,” Mr Moragoda said.

“Even a suicide cadre who had seen all these positive changes would think twice because he has been offered an alternative to their resolve to die for a cause. When they see that they can live the life of any other citizen and have the same access and opportunities they will definitely think twice.”

In March 2004 Karuna, then the LTTE’s commander for the Batticaloa-Amparai sector, rebelled against the LTTE leadership, but when his six week rebellion collapsed following a Tiger offensive over the Easter Weekend, Karuna defected to the Sri Lanka Army with a handful of close confidantes.

The LTTE accuse Sri Lankan military intelligence of supporting the Karuna Group and other paramilitary groups in a violent campaign against its members and supporters.

Mr. Moragoda acknowledged the charge, but refused to say if Mr. Wickremesinghe would disarm the paramilitary groups as stipulated in the ceasefire agreement.

“We see it more as a law or order issue [than a ceasefire matter] especially in the Eastern province than anything else,” he said.

“Karuna is a product of the peace process for which the UNP had made the bulk of the contributions. … As to what we should do with Karuna is something that we have to decide once our candidate is elected the president.”

External Links:
SL: Milinda Moragoda's website
TG: Rising Challenge


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