No proof Sri Lanka Army backs Karuna
Sri Lanka's peace monitors have no evidence that the country's army is supporting the breakaway Tamil Tigers group headed by Karuna, a senior official of the Nordic body says.
"We have no proof that the army is directly supporting the Karuna group but we know that some local army officers had knowledge of the whereabouts of some Karuna supporters," Helen Olafsdottir of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) told Tehelka magazine here in an interview.
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has accused the Sri Lankan military intelligence of covertly supporting the group that split from the LTTE two years ago and is led by Vinayagamurthy Muralitharan, alias Karuna.
At the same time, Olafsdottir alleged that ordinary Tamils in the north and east of Sri Lanka were being harassed by government troops.
"We have indeed seen an increase in army harassment of civilians," she said in an interview taken before the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE agreed to meet in Geneva next month for discussions.
"We have approached the Sri Lankan authorities and asked them to address the issue."
The SLMM is made up of members from Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Iceland and its mandate is to oversee the February 2002 ceasefire between the LTTE and Colombo.
The SLMM investigates complaints but is increasingly finding itself difficult to cope with the growing number of violations, for most of which the LTTE has been blamed.
Referring to the LTTE's claims that "people" were to blame for the bloody attacks on the Sri Lankan forces from Dec 4, Olafsdottir said: "SLMM finds this explanation unacceptable. The LTTE's involvement cannot be ruled out.
"It is however also true that people are suffering and there have been several reports of civilian harassment by the security forces."
In an oblique reference to Karuna and his supporters, she went on: "The current situation ... stems from the fact that alternative armed elements have been able to operate freely in the east in government-controlled areas.
"These forces have destabilized the ceasefire and are one of the major reasons for increased tension between the government and the LTTE."
So widespread was the violence in the north and east of Sri Lanka that there was no accountability, she said.
"The perpetrators know they can get away with anything because the police are overstretched. There are so many incidents that individual cases hardly get any attention."
Asked if the LTTE was intransigent, Olafsdottir replied: "They are for sure very fixed on their goals in the conflict...
"There have been a few cases where they were unwilling to budge. They denied us access to their newly built airstrip (in the north)."
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