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SLMM drops controversial proposal
The Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) has withdrawn proposals to the Government to "recognize Sea Tigers as a de facto naval unit" of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and demarcate areas at sea for "live firing exercises" for them.

This is the direct outcome of exclusive revelations made in The Sunday Times last week about these and other highly controversial proposals that impinged on Sri Lanka's territorial integrity and sovereignty.

SLMM spokesman Teitur Torkelsson said in a statement on Friday that "second draft proposals" had been sent to the parties requesting them to forward their comments before April 30. He said that a "final composition of the Sri Lanka Armed Forces should be reached at the peace talks."

Though not proposals of the SLMM, the second draft proposals contain at least two contentious issues. With regard to Offensive Naval Operations, the proposals say that neither party shall conduct offensive or aggressive operations at sea. Another proposal on Exercise and Training areas says that the "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

In terms of the Ceasefire Agreement of February 22, the provision dealing with Offensive Naval Operations prohibits the Navy from carrying out offensive naval operations. However, the Navy has contended that it is not debarred from taking "defensive action" like during the March 10 incident in the deep seas where they sank an LTTE merchant vessel suspected of carrying military hardware.

The offer to grant a designated area at sea for the LTTE to conduct training and exercises without live firing practices had been made by the Government. This was after the Government over-ruled the Navy Commander's objections on the SLMM proposal to allow a designated area for live firing practices. However, the Government has made a distinct change that such a training and exercises zone would be without live firing practices. (See Situation Report by Iqbal Athas for details.)

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