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Changing monitors breach of pact: Lankan Govt

The Tamil Tigers had called for a change in the status and membership of the European truce monitors, reports PK Balachandran.

india Updated: Jun 24, 2006 15:49 IST

The Sri Lankan government has said that the bid by the Norwegian government and the LTTE to change the members of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) is against the Status of Mission Agreement (SOMA), which set up the SLMM in February 2002.

As per SOMA, only the Sri Lankan government and the Royal Norwegian government can change the status and membership of the monitors because it was these two entities, which had signed the agreement.

The Norwegian government and the LTTE cannot change the character of the SLMM on their own because that will violate SOMA.

This view, put out on Friday by the government Peace Secretariat, came in the wake of the Norwegian government's decision to hold a meeting of Nordic countries in Oslo on June 29, to discuss the LTTE's demand that monitors from the European Union (EU) countries should be replaced by personnel from non-EU countries following the EU's proscription of the LTTE.

"Any changes in the composition of the SLMM, if needed, is not a matter for unilateral decision making by the LTTE or to be determined between Norway and the LTTE," the government statement aid.

"While the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) is a document signed by the government of Sri Lanka and LTTE, the agreement of treaty status relating to the establishment of the SLMM, the Status of Mission Agreement (SOMA), is between the Government of Sri Lanka and the Royal Norwegian Government," it said.  

"Any structural changes to the monitoring mechanism of the CFA would have an impact on the disposition and outlook of the monitoring process requiring consequential changes to SOMA," the government pointed out.

"These are matters that require negotiations by all parties concerned and cannot be addressed unilaterally to respond to the unreasonable sensitivities and the intransigent attitude of the LTTE," the statement said.

Monitors do not represent parent countries

The government statement said that the LTTE's demand was unreasonable because the monitors did not represent their parent countries but were like international civil servants, who represented only their organisations.

"SLMM monitors function in their individual capacities and are accountable to the SLMM and not to their countries of origin or citizenship."

"As with the principle applicable within the United Nations, individual staff members do not represent their home countries when discharging official functions. They function under the single banner of the organisation and the goals and objectives of the mission."

"In Sri Lanka, nationals from the United States and United Kingdom which have proscribed the LTTE, hold senior positions in UN agencies, some as Country Representatives that have interactions with the LTTE and are not inhibited in anyway from carrying out their official duties for such international organisations."

"It appears that the LTTE is taking a very selective approach and adopting superficial arguments when referring to the neutrality of EU countries," the government complained. 

"The LTTE theoretician and Head of the Peace Delegation Anton Balasingham is himself an EU citizen, residing in an EU country," it pointed out.

It was surprising that the LTTE did not find Balasingham's UK/EU citizenship being detrimental to his neutrality, the government said.

LTTE's funds come for EU countries

The government pointed out that the LTTE seemed to be forgetting that much of its funding came from Tamil expatriates in the EU countries.

When it could accept these funds, why could it not accommodate monitors from EU, the government wondered.

"It is noted that the LTTE actively engages in fund raising activities in EU countries. In fact, the top four sources of funding for the LTTE are EU countries where collection activities are carried out."

"Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO), the flagship fundraising arm of the LTTE maintains 7 of its 13 international offices in EU countries."

"In a recent TRO report it is recorded that over 48 per cent of funds for the TRO was received from branch offices in EU countries."

"TRO contributions received from Denmark alone were the fourth largest for that period."

"The LTTE also operates several Tamil Co-ordinating Committee (TCC) offices in EU countries with senior confidants of the leadership directing fund raising and procurement activities," the government said.

Giving deadline, a hostile act

"The time period of one month insisted on by the LTTE for effecting changes in the composition of the SLMM is tantamount to the imposition of a hostile deadline by the LTTE against the SLMM monitors from the EU and goes contrary to the spirit of guarantees of security for the monitors from the LTTE," the government said.

The government statement approvingly quoted Erik Solheim, chief peace envoy and Norwegian Minister for International Development, who said that the LTTE's demand was "deeply regrettable" and that it would "weaken the SLMM in a critical period".

Ploy to avoid talks

According to the Secretary General of the Peace Secretariat, Dr.Palitha Kohona, the LTTE is raising objections about monitors from the EU only to avoid going for peace talks with the Sri Lankan government.

As for the Sri Lankan government, it is fully backing the SLMM.

"The GoSL (Government of Sri Lanka) wishes to reiterate its full confidence on the SLMM, including monitors from the EU countries, and is deeply appreciative of the task undertaken by them under most trying circumstances."

"The GoSL urges the SLMM to continue to carry out its mandate despite the unreasonable stance of the LTTE," the government statement said.