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Sampur capture breaks truce: SLMM

The monitors say capture of Sampur from LTTE's control is a breach of 2002 truce pact, reports PK Balachandran.

india Updated: Sep 28, 2006 20:12 IST

In a determination which is likely to raise the hackles in South Sri Lanka, the Nordic truce monitors have described the capture of Sampur from the Tamil Tigers as a "gross violation" of the 2002 Ceasefire Agreement (CFA).

The Head of the Scandinavian-staffed Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM), Maj Gen Lars Johan Solvberg, said on Tuesday, that by starting a "major military offensive" against the LTTE on August 27 and moving into LTTE-controlled areas in Sampur, the Sri Lankan government had committed a "gross violation" of the truce agreement.

This determination would certainly have come as a shock to the government because the latter had contended that the take over of Sampur was a security imperative and an economic necessity.

The LTTE was using Sampur, overlooking the Trincomalee harbour and naval station, to shell these strategic assets.

The harbour and base are indispensable for moving essential commodities, civilians, troops and armaments to beleaguered Jaffna in the North, and to defend the entire eastern seaboard against the LTTE's marauding Sea Tigers.

By losing Sampur and the Ilakkanthai Sea Tiger base just south of it, the LTTE has lost its hold on the Trincomalee port.

The loss of Sampur has put in jeopardy the LTTE's own clandestine shipping and naval movement along the Eastern coast between the Mullaitvu and Batticaloa districts.

The head of the truce monitors said that the government had committed a "serious violation" by conducting offensive military operations in the Jaffna, Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu districts, and moving into LTTE-controlled territories East of Muhmalai in the Jaffna Peninsula.

LTTE's violations

Gen Solvberg said that the LTTE too had indulged in a "gross violation" of the CFA by starting a "major military offensive" against the Sri Lankan government in the Jaffna area, namely, Muhamalai, Kayts and other islands off the peninsula.

The LTTE had committed a "serious violation" by launching offensives in Trincomalee, and occupying Mutur, he added.

And both parties had committed a "serious violation" of the CFA by restricting the movement of civilians and goods in and out of LTTE-controlled areas.

Thus, the truce monitors have indirectly blamed both the government and the LTTE for closing the A9 highway between Vavuniya and Jaffna, which goes through the LTTE-controlled Wanni region.

The closure of the road more than 40 days ago has brought misery to the 500,000 Tamil civilians stranded in the Jaffna peninsula.

They are the verge of running out of food and medicines. Economic activity in the peninsula is at an extremely low ebb.

All construction and repair work has come to a grind halt, throwing thousands of daily wage labourers out of employment. And banks have run out of money. 

The government had moved about 13, 600 tones of essential commodities by ship from Trincomalee to the North Jaffna port of Kankesanthurai in the past month.

But still, the situation is precarious, local people and UN and other international agencies say.

The Sri Lankan government and the LTTE also came under fire from the monitors for continuing hostilities leading to massive civilian casualties.

Since large-scale hostilities broke out in late July, "over 200 civilians have been killed and several thousands are internally displaced, creating a serious humanitarian crisis," the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission said in a report sent to the government and Tamil Tiger leaders.

Monitors barred

Referring to the plight of his own staff, Maj Gen Solvberg said that government as well as the LTTE had been restricting the freedom of movement of the truce monitors, which was a "serious" violation of the CFA.

The gravity of the violations committed had led to a "dangerous escalation in hostilities," he pointed out.

"It is important that the parties realise the seriousness of the current situation and do whatever there is in their power to move forward instead of engaging in military confrontation, " he urged.