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Sri Lankan peace talks in peril again

Talks have been put off due to the problem in transportation of LTTE leaders, reports PK Balachandran.

india Updated: Apr 15, 2006 16:52 IST

The LTTE's political wing leader, SP Tamilselvan, said on Saturday, that there was a question mark over his organisation's decision to go for the second round of peace talks with the Sri Lankan government, scheduled to be held in Geneva on April 24 and 25.

He was reacting to a new problem, which had arisen on Saturday, over the transportation of top LTTE Commanders between Mullaitivu and Batticaloa for consultations with the LTTE's leadership ahead of the Geneva talks.

In a letter to the chief of the Scandinavian truce monitors, Maj Gen Ulf Henricsson, Tamilselvan charged the Sri Lankan Navy of breaking the agreed rules on the transportation, and said that this could mean that the LTTE might not go for the talks in Geneva.

"We wish to emphasise that today's incident had put in question our decision and subsequent efforts to go to Geneva, and that the actions of the GOSL (Government of Sri Lanka) is the reason for this unfortunate situation," Tamilselvan said.

The Sri Lankan Navy had broken the agreed procedure by insisting that the civilian ferry, arranged by the Scandinavian truce monitors (SLMM), be escorted by it, when there was no provision for such an escort.

Tamilselvan pointed out that the Sri Lankan Navy's Fast Attack Craft (FAC) were in the vicinity of the Mullaitivu jetty, and were giving instructions over VHF marine radio to the civilian vessel, which was to carry the commanders.

The Sri Lankan Navy boats had sent instructions at least 20 times, he said.

Tamilselvan pointed out that the original agreed procedure had envisaged no presence or interference of the Sri Lankan Navy during the embarkation, journey and disembarkation of the truce monitors' arranged civilian vessel. 

According to the LTTE, the agreed procedure was that there would be no Sri Lankan Navy personnel on board the vessel, and that there would be no monitoring of its movement during the transportation.

The security for the vessel and the rebel commanders on board was to be provided only the Scandinavian truce monitors.

Ten monitors and their chief, Maj Gen Ulf Henricsson, were to be on board the vessel.

The LTTE thereupon cancelled the transportation.

The civilian vessel was to take the Acting Commanders from Mullaitivu to Batticaloa, and bring the Eastern Commanders from Batticaloa to Mullaitivu.

All the Commanders involved are top brass, such as Col Sornam (Trincomalee) and Col Bhanu (Batticaloa)

Tamil sources said that the lives of these Commanders were critical for the LTTE. Hence the concern over their safety.

Vavuniya situation grave

Also contributing to the LTTE's unease over going to Geneva is the security situation in Trincomalee and Vavuniya.

On Saturday, in Vavuniya district in North Sri Lanka, four Sri Lankan army men were killed and several others were injured, when a bus carrying them was blasted by a claymore mine near Joseph Camp.

The army said that the LTTE were the perpetrators.

Earlier, anti-LTTE Tamil paramilitaries were accused of killing several Tamil businessmen, who were allegedly contributing to the LTTE.

Saturday's claymore attack on the army bus is believed to be a retaliation for the killing of these businessmen.

Trinco tense

On Friday, the LTTE had warned that the peace process could be in "serious" danger if the government did not stop the "genocidal attacks" on the Tamils in Trincomalee district.

S.Elilan, the LTTE's district political leader said in a statement, that if the "genocidal" attacks on the Tamils by the Sri Lankan armed forces in collaboration with Sinhala "hoodlums" continued, the LTTE would have to safeguard the lives of the Tamils.

"And that would lead to undesirable serious consequences for the current peace process," he warned.

Sinhala youth killed

According to sources in Trincomalee, trouble started when the LTTE killed Nissanka, a Sinhala youth working in a bakery in Mihindapura, a Sinhala-dominated area.

Following this, Sinhala mobs started attacking the Tamils in Mihindapura and several other villages in the area.

Sources said that the Tamils were being asked to leave these villages for their own safety.

And many were leaving for safer areas like Anbuvazhipuram where the LTTE had a strong presence, the sources added.