LTTE live firing:
Navy finds evidence
seas off the north-eastern coastal town of Mullaitivu were unusually
calm last Monday morning (February 17) when two Fast Attack Craft
(FAC) of the Sri Lanka Navy met with an unusual encounter.
girls wearing black bands during a protest rally in the Jaffna
penisula this week.
Three Sea Tiger
attack craft were moving closely in what they feared was provocative
conduct. They had moved past the Naval vessels, drifted in a north-westerly
direction and later begun the return journey towards shore. And
suddenly, somewhere near two old shipwrecks, not far off from the
shore, the three vessels joined others in training manoeuvres and
live firing exercises.
The two Navy
patrol craft were on the operational boundaries of two Naval commands,
the Northern Naval Area Headquarters in Kankesanthurai and the Eastern
Naval Area Headquarters in Trincomalee. Both command headquarters
sent additional Naval vessels with members of the Sri Lanka Monitoring
Mission (SLMM) on board. They reached the location. From a safe
area, SLMM members observed what was going on.
Head of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM), Haagrup Haukland,
reflected their findings. "Our monitors observed the live firing.
No one was hurt. It is a clear violation of the (Government-LTTE)
Ceasefire Agreement," he told The Sunday Times.
the SLMM had done, he replied "like in all other instances
of ceasefire violations, we have brought this to the attention of
the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)."
of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM), that monitors the Ceasefire
Agreement of February 22, last year, to go beyond warnings was clearly
reflected when Mr Hauckland said "we have no powers to issue
orders or to compel parties to obey us." He added "our
47 members can only point out the violations. That is all we can
we do not have an Army
. or any equipment
deal with those violating the ceasefire."
If those were
the limitations of the SLMM, the concerns of the Sri Lanka Navy,
whose task it is to protect the shores and seas of this island nation,
were many. The live firing exercises were being conducted with the
use of 23 mm guns mounted on the aft and rear of the Sea Tiger patrol
craft. These guns, also used in an anti aircraft role, have been
fired by the Sea Tigers during occasional confrontations with the
Navy since 1987. The twin barrelled 23 mm guns, suspected to be
of Belgian origin, intelligence sources say, are mounted on many
larger Sea Tiger attack craft. They were now learning manoeuvres
and carrying out live firing exercises using them.
part of the weapons consignments the LTTE has successfully smuggled
into Sri Lanka during the period of ceasefire? Was the 23 mm gun,
oiled and packed in polythene wrapping, found inside the trawler
involved in the Delft incident, also part of this consignment? In
the case of the latter, the Navy found some Chinese markings on
the barrel but is still trying to ascertain the origin.
Since the ceasefire,
the Navy has been reporting to the Ministry of Defence that Sea
Tigers were conducting live firing exercises at regular intervals.
But this is the first time the Navy came up with unimpeachable evidence.
That is by moving to the exercise area off the shores of Mullaitivu
with SLMM monitors. As a result, the SLMM has made two significant
findings - (1) Sea Tigers were in fact conducting training manoeuvres
and live firing exercises (2) that such activity was in direct contravention
of the Ceasefire Agreement between the UNF Government and the LTTE.
That is not
all. Navy Commander Vice Admiral Daya Sandagiri has more incontrovertible
evidence. The Israeli-built MSIS (Multi Sensor Integrated System)
cameras mounted on board the Navy's Fast Attack Craft had filmed
the training manoeuvres and the live firing exercise. He has all
that on VHS tape.
As a result
of these developments, so many matters have now become clearer.
Whilst the Sea Tigers were emerging as a potent Naval force in the
Indian Ocean region, the operational capability of the Sri Lanka
Navy has dwindled to much less than fifty percent since the Ceasefire
Agreement. That is with expanded strength and by acquiring new equipment.
To enumerate the pathetic plight the Navy has been forced into in
respect of operational efficiency for no fault of theirs would be
inimical to national interest.
The Sea Tiger
training manoeuvres and live firing exercise came just ten days
after the incident near Delft Island (Jaffna peninsula). On February
6 Naval craft apprehended a trawler towed by a Sea Tiger boat with
12 cadres on board. The boat with guerrillas on board was released
after SLMM found they were not transporting anything incriminating.
However, the trawler with three guerrillas on board was detained.
two SLMM monitors boarded it for a search and found a 23 mm gun,
ammunition boxes, hand grenades, an assault rifle and other warlike
items hidden in the bottom compartment of the trawler. The three
guerrillas on board set fire to the boat and committed suicide.
Report - February 9). The incident came as a UNF Government
and LTTE delegation sat for peace talks in the Royal Norwegian Consulate
in Berlin. It later transpired that the trawler was one of two headed
for a mid sea transfer of military hardware from a cargo ship (located
some 150 nautical miles north east of Sri Lanka) but had developed
The LTTE was
to use the Delft incident to instigate large-scale public protests
in the north and east. Just six days after the events off Delft
island, an incident at Manipay over female guerrilla cadres wearing
web belts, considered part of uniform and thus banned in Government
controlled areas by the SLMM. (Situation Report - February 14).
The incident prompted LTTE Chief Negotiator, Anton Balasingham,
(due in Colombo on March 2) to publicly warn that the guerrillas
would abrogate the Ceasefire Agreement if similar incidents occurred.
His warning came after reported attacks on civilians by Police riot
squads and Army Special Forces teams deployed to quell protests
outside the headquarters of the 2nd battalion of the Military Intelligence
Corps in Manipay- a matter that is now being probed by a three member
Army Court of Inquiry.
on the occasion of the first anniversary of the Ceasefire Agreement,
the LTTE observed a hartal in the north and east. Besides the Delft
and Manipay incidents, handbills distributed by the LTTE claimed
that even a year after the ceasefire, the public have not received
any relief. It also said the Security Forces were continuing to
occupy High Security Zones. The UNF Government, however, sought
to make capital of the event. They appealed to the public to light
a lamp in their homes to mark one year of peace as a result of the
ceasefire. Many did. Television networks in Colombo, both State
and private, displayed a white dove on their screens to symbolise
In marked contrast,
the LTTE appears to have launched a campaign, just days ahead of
the ceasefire anniversary, in Government controlled areas. They
were aimed at encouraging the public to join in various protests
to protest the Delft and Manipay incidents.
The study of
a collection of them from a large volume of reports reaching Army,
Navy and Police Headquarters (from their provincial commands in
the north and east) raises the question whether the campaigns were
intended to undermine the writ of the Government in those areas.
See box story for some of these reports.
the many violations of the cease-fire and other provocative incidents
short of breaching the agreement, it is clear that there is a dichotomy
in the approach to the peace process by the UNF government and the
government is searching an end to the conflict in all its dimensions,
military, political, social and economic, the LTTE is unwaveringly
committed to its political goal of Eelam. Its Chief Negotiator Anton
Balasingham says it all in his address to the Tamil expatriates
in Dusseldorf, Germany when he asserts that "the present peace
talks is a diplomatic move to obtain international legitimacy and
to achieve our goal".
manoeuvring is aimed at international diplomacy or at their overseas
diaspora or at domestic politico-military consolidation, their strategies
are firmly tuned towards their final goal.
It is precisely
because of this division that the government should exercise its
writ in the larger interests of the country so that there is no
misunderstanding between the legal rights of the of a devolved authority
and the Central Government whether as now spelt in the Government-LTTE
agreement or whatever any future political structure may evolve
presuming of course that it is within a united Sri Lanka.
violations of the peace agreement in most cases impinge on the law
and order situation and in some cases more seriously on the sovereignty
of the country, as in both the Delft and Manipay incidents. These
therefore are matters that cannot be dismissed lightly. The LTTE
on the other hand seem to exercise their writ in areas controlled
by them as seen by their flagrant violation of the cease-fire agreement
and the law of the land.
lukewarm response of the United National Front against violations
by the LTTE does not inspire public confidence in them. Neither
do these incidents contribute to impress the public of the sincerity
of the LTTE to peace. Without public support it is questionable
whether a political process can achieve a durable peace.
Tiger activity raises serious questions
the Delft (February 6) and Manipay incidents (February 12),
the LTTE has been triggering off a string of incidents in
the north and east raising questions whether attempts were
being made to undermine the writ of the government in these
are few among a large number of reports Army, Navy and Police
Headquarters have been receiving from their area commands
in the north and east, just days ahead of yesterday's first
anniversary of the Ceasefire Agreement. Interesting enough,
apart from preventive measures, both the Police and the Military
did not take any precipitate action over these incidents:
NALLUR - Approximately 1500 civilians including students
instigated by the LTTE participated in a protest march displaying
banners, effigies and placards. Campaign started from Jaffna
library and ended at the SLMM office. Later protesters burnt
effigies of President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga and
Jaffna Security Forces Commander, Major General Sarath Fonseka
opposite Naga Vihare Junction at Vannarapannai.
- LTTE cadres burnt few tyres. ALLARAI - LTTE cadres
and school children burnt few tyres and launched a protest
campaign. KAITADI - LTTE cadres had an effigy in a
tractor from Kopai to Kaitadi junction and burnt it. UDUPPIDDY
- On instructions of LTTE students of Uduppiddy Ladies College
and College of American Mission burnt effigies of the President
and Jaffna Security Forces Commander. Point Pedro -
Approximately 50 civilians instigated by the LTTE burnt effigies
of the President and Jaffna Security Forces Commander.
- Approximately ten persons conducted a protest carrying black
flags opposite State Media Department in Jaffna. It was conducted
against the assault of media persons during Manipay incident.
NORTH KOPAI - A tax collection office had been opened in an
abandoned house in Irupalai in JAFFNA-POINT PEDRO road by
the LTTE. Seven LTTE cadres are assigned to this office.
- Approximately 225 civilians wearing black armbands held
a protest walk from Kurumankadu Amman Kovil to SLMM office
in Vavuniya town. They handed over a petition to SLMM officials
protesting the incident in Manipay. The civilians who took
part in this protest are from Poonthottam, Nalukkulam and
Adappankula Internally Displace Persons camps.
Students of Cheddikulam School wore black armbands. It was
revealed that two shops in Cheddikulam town sold these bands.
Subsequently the Police had prevented the sale of these armbands.
MANNAR - The staff of the Kachcheri and Post Office in Mannar
wore black armbands during the working hours on the instructions
of the LTTE. Teachers of Sithivinayagar Hindu Vidyalaya and
St. Lucia's in Mannar had disallowed students who tried to
enter into the school premises wearing black armbands. The
LTTE had distributed armbands to three-wheeler society, vehicle
society and shops in Mannar. However, the public in Mannar
showed displeasure in wearing these bands. Security Forces
in coordination with Police had conducted foot and mobile
patrol and showed their presence near schools in Mannar area,
which affected the LTTE protest activity.
was conducted by the LTTE and the Tamil Community in Batticaloa
town area as a mark of protest against the Manipay incident.
Approximately 300 demonstrators along with school children
participated. They wore black armbands, carried placards and
flags. The demonstrators marched silently along Hindu College
road, Koddamunai Bridge road, Court House road and gathered
near the clock tower. Later they handed over a letter to the
Assistant Government Agent who arrived at the location. All
government offices and shops remained closed. Public transportation
in Batticaloa town ceased. Two LTTE political leaders (namely
Senadiraj and Tuylpan) along with approximately 20 to 25 LTTE
cadres participated in the event. Later they dispersed peacefully.
- The LTTE and the Tamil Community in Vandaramullai protested
against the Manipay incident conducted a demonstration. Approximately
45 to 50 civilians at Vandaramullai and marched up to the
Chenkalady Divisional Secretariat Office. Later they dispersed
peacefully. All government offices and shops in Chendalady
and Sittandy remained closed.
- Information received that a LTTE Police Office was opened
in the house of Thiruchelvam in Verugal, Mohottuwaram, Ichchalampattu
in uncleared area and will be manned by the LTTE members (namely
Sergeant Pushpan, Sergeant Sally and Jana).
A demonstration was conducted by LTTE and the Tamil Community
in Valaichchenai town area to protest against the Manipay
incident. Students of Valaichchenai Hindu College, Putukudyiruppu
Primary School marched up to the Divisional Secretariat Office
Valaichchenai. They proclaimed the incident, which took place
in Manipay, was barbaric and inhuman. They wore black armbands
and carried placards and flags. Around 700 demonstrators who
gathered at the Valaichchenai Divisional Secretariat Office
handed over a letter to the Divisional Secretariat. All government
offices and shops remained closed and public transport in
Valaichchenai town ceased.