Shock and anger greet SLMM proposals
The Sunday Times exclusive revelations in Situation Report and the front page lead story last week - proposals by truce monitors to "recognize Sea Tigers as a de facto Naval unit" of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and demarcate areas for them at sea for "live firing exercises" among others - have had far reaching repercussions.

Although there has been no official response from the United National Front Government so far, it has nevertheless caused concern in its ranks. Opposition parties have raised strong protests. Deeply concerned that the proposals would impinge on the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Sri Lanka, those in Security Forces and Police have reacted with anger. So did a vast section of the national media, the nation's citizenry and Sri Lankan expatriate groups abroad. It raised concerns in the

Colombo based diplomatic community too. Many missions who pledged support for the ongoing peace process whilst re-iterating their commitment for a united Sri Lanka were shocked. One area where worries were heightened is in neighbouring India. The recognition of the LTTE Sea Tigers as a legitimate Navy of a nameless country appears to have caused serious concern. More so since the LTTE remains banned in India and a proposal had come even before a negotiated peace settlement was reached.

Soon after The Sunday Times report appeared, India's High Commissioner in Sri Lanka, Nirupam Sen, is learnt to have been summoned to New Delhi by his Government for consultations. Reports from the Indian capital spoke of discussions he held with senior Ministers, high ranking Navy and other officials there. Diplomatic missions of some Asian and Western Governments sought to ascertain whether the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) proposals appearing in The Sunday Times were in fact true. They soon learnt they were.

But the most important impact was on the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission itself. If the proposals were made by Head of the SLMM, retired Norwegian Major General Tryggve Teleffsen in the form of an Initial Discussion Paper, it has now been withdrawn. An SLMM press release on Friday night said "a second draft of proposals" has been sent to the Parties and declared that the "final composition of The Sri Lanka Armed Forces should be reached at the Peace Talks."

This is the direct outcome of the revelations made in The Sunday Times last week. What the SLMM has now done is to provide both the Government of Sri Lanka (through the Secretariat Co-ordinating the Peace Process - SCOPP) and the LTTE with a new document also titled MEASURES TO BE CONSIDERED FOR PREVENTING INCIDENTS BETWEEN THE SRI LANKA NAVY (SLN) AND LIBERATION TIGERS OF TAMIL EELAM (LTTE) AT SEA. Though it retains the dates mentioned in the previous document, the SLMM second draft does not contain the highly controversial proposals listed earlier. Nor is it formally titled as an Initial Discussion Paper or bear the signature of Maj. Gen. (retd) Teleffsen.

In the second draft proposals submitted by the SLMM, they have omitted reference contained in the first Initial Discussion Paper of proposals to the Government to recognize the Sea Tigers as a naval force. As to why in the first instance these proposals were presented is not clear. The SLMM has also withdrawn their proposal that the Government and the LTTE "should permit observers from the other Party onboard their vessels whilst conducting exercises and training." This is in addition to withdrawal of a number of other proposals listed in these columns last week (See Situation Report - April 20). The Initial Discussion Paper that gave cause to a national debate, now raging, is not official any more.

However, there are still two contentious issues though the SLMM cannot be blamed at all for making them. They are "Proposed Measures" by the SLMM that says:

* OFFENSIVE NAVAL OPERATIONS: Neither party shall conduct offensive or aggressive operations at sea.

In terms of the February 22, 2002 Ceasefire Agreement, the provision dealing with Offensive Naval Operations (1.3) states: "The Sri Lankan armed forces shall continue to perform their legitimate task of safeguarding the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka without engaging in offensive operations against the LTTE."

Either through an oversight or otherwise, the Government agreed to this provision in the CFA that debars Sri Lanka Navy from "engaging in offensive operations against the LTTE." This, however, does not cover what the Navy terms "defensive operations." An example cited is the Navy firing of an LTTE vessel "MV Koimar" in the deep seas off Mullaitivu on March 10 (Situation Report - March 16). They point out that the Navy retaliated in defence after they were fired upon.

It is significant to note that even in the Ceasefire Agreement, operations at sea have been wrongly termed as "offensive naval operations." In actual fact they are naval operations on the Sri Lanka Government side whereas LTTE maneouvres are maritime operations. This confusion has prevailed from the very beginning.

* EXERCISE AND TRAINING AREAS: LTTE will conduct training and exercises within a designated area at sea. LTTE vessels when at sea outside such designated exercise area should not carry weapons or explosives on board.

As reported last week, the Commander of the Navy, Vice Admiral Daya Sandagiri, had reacted angrily to the SLMM proposals. He had rejected the SLMM proposal that "the Navy and the Sea Tigers should have specific marked exercise and training areas at sea, designed for navigation training and for live firing exercises as well…"

Here is Vice Admiral Sandagiri's response: "Sea (Territorial Waters, Contiguous Zone upto EEZ - Exclusive Economic Zone) is under SLN control. No other party can be allowed to conduct military training at sea since it is against the Constitution and sovereignty of the country and article 1.3 of the CFA."

However, The Sunday Times learnt that the Government has over-ruled his objections on this matter. Instead, the Government, which responded to the original SLMM Initial Discussion Paper, though accepting all of Vice Admiral Sandagiri's other observations, had agreed to allow LTTE to conduct training and exercises within a designated area at sea. A SCOPP source who did not wish to be named explained that the Government offer did not cover live firing exercises and no mention of it has been expressly made.

It is not clear how the Sea Tigers could conduct training and exercises within any designated area at sea without resort to live firing. Unlike on land, training and exercises for any Navy at sea almost often encompasses live firing. Such exercises are preceded by warnings to those navigating near the area or aircraft using the air space above. There are some limitations. Among them are training and exercises on casualty evacuation or search and rescue.

Moreover, an official Government response to permit Sea Tigers to conduct training and exercises at sea, even without live firing, on the one hand, amounts to official recognition of LTTE's sea faring arm. On the other, it implies a demarcation of a part of the territorial waters of Sri Lanka for exclusive use by the LTTE, a move that has serious implications on Sri Lanka's territorial integrity and sovereignty. A de facto (from the fact) LTTE sea going arm, by virtue of being allowed a designated area at sea, would automatically receive de jure (from the law, by right) status.

In this context, it is relevant to ask whether equal recognition has been given to LTTE land forces including the Black Tigers, their suicide arm. The Sunday Times has obtained full texts of the latest SLMM second draft proposals as well as the response of Navy Chief Vice Admiral Daya Sandagiri, to their earlier Initial Discussion Paper. See box stories.

Despite all these developments, the Sri Lanka Rupavahini, the national television network that continues to be the tool for virulent state propaganda of successive Governments had a different, if not more sinister, story to report on the same issue. No better than the way it functioned during the People's Alliance regime when its channels were used for witch hunting journalists whose reports were found to be uncomfortable to the Government. See separate box story on botton for details .

The SLMM said on Friday it had called upon the Government and the LTTE to forward their comments on the second draft of the proposals before April 30. "After that SLMM intends to have separate discussions with the Parties on these arrangements and has suggested a meeting between senior naval and political representatives of both Parties, the Norwegian facilitator and SLMM at Omantai crossing point on 7th of May 2003," Teitur Torkelsson, SLMM spokesman said in a press release.

The Government evidently is focusing on the technicalities of the Ceasefire Agreement in isolation of the larger dimension of its responsibility for safeguarding the sovereignty of the nation. Any concessions now made in this regard will surely have its repercussions on the core issues that are yet to be discussed.

In saying this, I must re-iterate that the issue taken up is not to jeopardize the ongoing peace talks in any way but rather that peace is achieved within the sovereignty of a united Sri Lanka. That is the people's aspiration.

SLN the only legitimate force at Lankan sea
Navy Commander Vice Admiral Daya Sandagiri reacted angrily last week to proposals made by the SLMM in an Initial Discussion Paper that called for recognition of Sea Tigers as a naval unit and demarcation of areas for them in the high seas for live firing exercises.

The Sunday Times today publishes the full text of his response sent to the Ministry of Defence. For purposes of clarity, references are made to SLMM proposals wherever necessary:

SLMM proposal: The Parties naval units must comply fully with the CFA and with the international laws at Sea.
Vice Admiral Sandagiri:

i. This applies only to SLN, as SLN has been dominating and controlling the Territorial Waters around Sri Lanka even though the Mullaitivu factor was considered as their strong hold. SLN continued to deploy units in Op Varuna Kirana at distance 6 NM, i.e. well within territorial waters and effectively confronted the sea tigers at very close proximity to so called enemy dominated land area.

Eg. The last encounter just few hours before the declaration of CFA was ended approx 3 NM from Mullaitivu.

ii The Sea Tiger arm of LTTE is not a legitimate organization / force to carry weapons / munitions at sea according to International Laws at Sea and also in the Territorial Waters of Sri Lanka which controlled by SLN as per 1.7 of CFA.

SLMM : The general policy regarding active Ceasefire measures at sea must be determined at the highest level (central level). The Maritime Committees should work out the details.
Vice Admiral Sandagiri"

This should be done at political level with the views of SLN.
Vice Admiral Sandagiri:

Strongly recommended to reactivate the District Committee Meetings (DCM) / Sub Committee for De-escalation and Normalcy meeting with the inclusion of senior most Naval Monitor of SLMM as a member of SDN and should be brought under the purview of SDN.

Vice Admiral Sandagiri:
At the time of the MOU was signed, it was very clear that SLN was in total control of the sea and is the only legitimate force at sea. Hence issue of de facto force was of no relevance. At the end of peace talks some day, even Federal Status is given to North and East, there will be only one Navy and that is SLN. Therefore, excluding LTTE Sea Tigers from the normal law of the country is unacceptable and out of the question.

Vice Admiral Sandagiri:
This implies that LTTE sea tigers are in par with SLN, which is not. Therefore the proposal is totally unacceptable.

Vice Admiral Sandagiri:
Proposal not possible. Refraining the violation of CFA, unlikely at sea off Iranativu on 13th July 2002 and Delft on 06th February 2003 by LTTE, itself would (sic) a confidence building measures between two parties.

Vice Admiral Sandagiri:
Yes. This is required to maintain communications with LTTE declared movements.

Vice Admiral Sandagiri:
i) This is possible as far as practicable / feasible, i.e. if a SLN vessel on patrol detects a suspicious vessel or boat smuggling in warlike material and not complies with SLN instructions, SLN will have to follow the ROE. In these situations chances are more likely that SLMM member may not be onboard.
ii) Stamping as only "grave violation" of CFA will merely (sic) not sufficient, unless SLMM is geared to take strong action against LTTE involved in violation of CFA. Incidents occurred in Iranativu on 13th July 2002 and Delft 06th February 2003 relevant in this regard.
iii) Proposal unacceptable. International law and law of the
country will be upheld by the SLN.

Vice Admiral Sandagiri:
SLN has the right to dominate and free movement at sea in view that she has to safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country and also in conformity to CFA article 1.3.

Vice Admiral Sandagiri:
Already done.

Vice Admiral Sandagiri:
Only SLN can apply ROE since she is the only legitimate force authorised to safeguard the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka and also in conformity to CFA article 1.3.

Vice Admiral Sandagiri:
Sea (Territorial Waters, Contiguous Zone up to EEZ) is under SLN control. No other party can be allowed to conduct military training at sea since it is against the constitution and sovereignty of the country and the article 1.3 of CFA.

Vice Admiral Sandagiri:
A system is already in place and is working well. Law of the country prevail.

Vice Admiral Sandagiri:
This is being practiced.Restricted Zone (from Great Basses to Puttalam) was established for total domination of sea areas by SLN preventing any illegal activities at sea and continued up to the time of signing MOU / CFA. As a gesture of good will and to support the government peace process, SLN consented to relax such restrictions gradually (D + 90 days) in normalising the fishing activities. SLN anticipated difficulties to develop when the fishing is relaxed and the possible LTTE engaging in illegal activities at sea. Therefore, a firm commitment from SLMM was expected by way of Naval Monitors be present onboard SLN vessels, numbering ten for each area (North & East), so that no misunderstanding in the determinations by SLMM on the legitimate right of SLN activities at sea.
Submitted for information and necessary action.
D.W.K. Sandagiri
Vice Admiral
Commander of the Navy


SLMM proposals: The revised version
The Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) has withdrawn the "Initial Discussion Paper", the contents of which were exclusively revealed in these columns last week.


01. Introduction
Ever since the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) was signed, there have been a number of incidents relating to the Parties' activity at sea. Some of the most serious incidents relating to the CFA have occurred at sea, endangering the Cease-fire and the Peace Process.

To Prevent future incidents at sea that could threaten the stability of the ceasefire, GOSL and LTTE at the Sixth Round of Peace Talks have decided that effective arrangements should be worked out and implemented between the two Parties.

02. Proposed Measures
(a) Compliance with National and International Laws and the CFA
The Parties must comply fully with national and international laws and regulations applicable to navigation and with the CFA.

(b) Policy on CFA on measures at Sea
The general policy regarding ceasefire measures at sea must be determined at the highest policy-making level.

(c) Regional Maritime Committees (RMCs)
(i) Maritime Committee- will be established at the national

(ii) As a tool to prevent incidents and violations of the CFA at sea, two Regional Maritime Committees (RMCs) shall be established (one each in Trincomalee and Jaffna). The RMCs should consist of representatives of the two Parties' and be headed by SLMM Naval Monitors (NM) of the particular Region.

(d) Identification
The vessels of the Parties' shall satisfy the requirements of shipping identification such as appropriate marking, number of load line and flag of nationality, as prescribed by applicable international laws and regulations, including the Inter-Governmental Maritime Organisation (IMO) and United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

(e) Communications
When at sea, vessels of both Parties' shall communicate on Channel 16 in accordance with applicable international laws and regulations.

(f) Inspection
Sri Lanka Navy's rights and obligations and legitimate task of safeguarding the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka are recognised and specifically stipulated in the CFA. SLN will exercise its rights under international law to prevent in Sri Lanka waters the infringement of its laws and regulations. Hence, any vessel challenged or intercepted by the SLN, will comply with instructions and orders given by the SLN, including (but not limited to):

i. An intercepted vessel shall adhere to the Rules of Engagement (ROE) (Annex 1).
ii Destruction of evidence, and deliberate exploding/sinking of vessels as well as threatening to commit suicide to avoid inspection shall be considered as grave violation of the CFA.

iii When an incident occurs at sea the Parties should refrain from escalating the situation.

(g) Vessels of Third Parties
Parties shall not engage in any hostile activity against vessels of Third parties, which are exercising the right of innocent passage in Sri Lanka Waters under International Law or are otherwise engaged in lawful activities in Sri Lanka Waters, in accordance with the laws and regulations of Sri Lanka.

(h) Offensive naval Operations
Subject to the provisions of paragraph (f) neither Party shall conduct offensive or aggressive operations at sea.

(i) Briefing on the CFA and Laws at Sea
All crews on vessels belonging to the Parties should be thoroughly briefed on the CFA and Laws and Regulations governing navigation and good seamanship.

(j) Exercise and Training Areas
LTTE will conduct training and exercises within a designated area at sea. LTTE vessels when at sea outside such designated exercise area should not carry weapons or explosives onboard.

(k) Modalities for Sea Movements
The modalities for transfer of cadres at sea by the LTTE have already been worked out and their operation will continue. The Parties will discuss the possibility of working out modalities for any other movements.

(m) SLMM Involvement
SLMM shall play a more proactive role regarding naval monitoring. For this purpose SLMM will increase the number of monitors at sea so that SLMM naval monitors are available at a very short notice. Hence, if an incident at sea should occur, SLMM should be notified, and naval monitors sent to the scene immediately. As a fundamental precondition for the.

SLMM involvement the parties must ensure full compliance with rulings of the SLMM, guarantee the security of its personnel in all situations, and take disciplinary action against anyone endangering the lives of SLMM personnel.

03. Plan of Progress
Details and input regarding the proposed measures in Paragraph 02 above have to be worked out by the Parties, and forwarded to SLMM HQ not later than Thursday 17th April 03.

Based on the feedback from the Parties SLMM will compile a detailed proposal and forward this to the Parties not later than Monday 21st of April 03.
On the 24th of April 03 senior naval and political representatives from both sides, as well as representatives from SLMM, will attend a meeting at Omantai crossing point to finalise the measures and effective arrangements. The Royal Norwegian Government will convene the meeting.

Please Note
Prior to the meeting on the 24th April 03, SLMM is prepared to meet the Parties separately to discuss the measures.


‘Attempt to stop me from reporting the truth’
The nightly Sinhala news bulletin of Rupavahini on Wednesday had a different story to tell its viewers over the SLMM proposals calling upon the Government to "recognize the LTTE Sea Tigers as a de facto naval unit" and demarcate areas at sea for "live firing exercises" by them.

It reported that Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremasinghe, had told the pre-Cabinet meeting that there are elements trying to disrupt the peace process. It went on to quote him as saying that he spoke to the Managing Director of a Sinhala daily newspaper about a campaign against the peace process.

The Premier had been told. Rupavahini said, that they get the information from a Defence Correspondent of a weekend newspaper. It added that Premier Wickremasinghe had assured the Cabinet he will not be deterred by such elements and will overcome the obstacles. He had said that the Government faced similar situations when the Ceasefire Agreement was signed.

Later on the same night, the Rupavahini English news bulletin, however, said Iqbal Athas, Defence Correspondent of The Sunday Times was providing the information. The next day, the State owned Independent Television Network (ITN) news bulletin also telecast the same report but made no references to names. The allegation, it appears, is that I had provided information about the SLMM proposals to a journalist (or journalists) at the Divaina newspaper and this was how the newspaper had reported on the matter and carried a strong front-page editorial. The Managing Director referred to is Mr. Nimal Welgama of Upali Newspapers Ltd.

Mr. Welgama told The Sunday Times 'I did not say that any reporters of Divaina obtained the story from Iqbal Athas. I said our reporters had checked the story about the SLMM proposals with their own sources before publishing it. I, however, mentioned that it had been written a day ahead by Iqbal Athas in The Sunday Times."

Hence the Rupavahini news report to project me as being anti-peace and feeding information to other media to sabotage the peace talks is just a part of a witch hunt. It is not the first occasion and will not be the last either. Some Government propagandists appear to be hurt or frightened about the truth - in this instance the report on the SLMM proposals. I had during the past weeks pointed out the pressures on me for saying the truth. So, here is one more instance of trying to stop me from saying it. More will undoubtedly follow.

This is no better than the Rupavahini during the days of the People's Alliance Government. Then a vicious campaign was carried out against me to suggest that I was a Tiger guerrilla accomplice for exposing wide spread corruption in military procurements, criticising the Government's war efforts and military offensives. Muck rakers like PA's Mahinda Abeysundera and his coterie of mud slingers used special programmes not only in the Rupavahini but also in the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation to witch hunt me then.

It seems no different now. I was once branded a Tiger accomplice and am now being given a new sobriquet - someone out to wreck the peace process.
If telling the truth, substantiated with facts, is the only qualification for earning those titles during a witch hunt, so be it. - Iqbal Athas


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