Protect our vessels too: LTTE to SLMM | india | Hindustan Times
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Protect our vessels too: LTTE to SLMM

The Nordic truce monitors at present have given protection to Lankan Govt's vessels, reports PK Balachandran.

india Updated: May 13, 2006 16:58 IST

The LTTE has asked the Nordic truce monitors to give protection to Sea Tiger vessels, in the same way as they protect Sri Lankan Naval vessels.

The LTTE's political wing leader, SP Tamilselvan, has demanded that the truce monitors escort Sea Tiger vessels, just as they escort Sri Lankan vessels in the troubled waters of the North East.

He made the demand when he met Maj Gen Ulf Henricsson, the head of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) in Kilinochchi on Friday.

But defence experts say that the LTTE's demand cannot be met because the Sea Tigers have no right to sea movement at all, as per international law.

The entire sea around Sri Lanka is under the control of the Sri Lankan government, and only the Sri Lankan Navy has the right to move about in it with arms.

But Tamilselvan was looking at the issue from a very different stand point.

He said that as per the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) of February 2002, there had to be parity between the Sri Lankan and LTTE forces as regards movement.

And this includes parity in protection between the Sri Lankan Navy and the Sea Tigers, he argued.

The LTTE's political commissar challenged the monitors' contention that the Sea Tigers had no right of sea movement, and that the Sri Lankan navy had a monopoly of it.

Tamilselvan contended that the CFA came into being because there was parity between the military forces of the government and the LTTE.

And the CFA would continue to exist only so long as there was parity, he asserted.

Sea a grey area

While the CFA is clear and categorical about the division of the land into government-controlled area and LTTE- controlled area, it does not mention the sea.

Successive Sri Lankan governments, and the truce monitors, had assumed that the government had a natural and exclusive right to the sea as the only sovereign entity in the region.

The LTTE has been challenging this assumption.

Tamilselvan pointed out that at least one head of the truce monitoring mission had accepted the LTTE's need for control over a part of the sea to enable the Sea Tigers to conduct exercises.

And the truce monitors had put this before the Sri Lankan government.

But the suggestion was so unpopular, and the Sri Lankan Navy was so much against it, that the government had no option but to reject it.

Tamilselvan now wants the truce monitors to revive the issue and put pressure on the government to think anew.

CFA based on parity

The LTTE claims that in the CFA itself, parity had been recognised.

No distinction was drawn between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE in terms of a dichotomy between the "state" and the "non-state" actor.

Tamilselvan objected to the SLMM's describing the LTTE as a "non-state actor."

In such a context, the Sri Lankan Navy could not enjoy a facility like free movement, and that with escort, while it was denied to the LTTE's Sea Tigers, he argued.

He claimed that the LTTE enjoyed "sovereignty" over the land, sea and air in parts of the "Tamil Homeland" it had seized by force of arms.

And he warned that the LTTE would not hesitate to enforce this claim if challenged.

Explains attack on Lankan troop ship

Tamilselvan said that it was done only to send a telling message to the Nordic truce monitors that they could not give protection to the Sri Lankan Forces while denying the same facility to the Sea tigers.

He said this explaining the attack on the Sri Lankan troop ship with 710 servicemen and Nordic truce monitors on board on May 11.

The Sea Tigers did not intend to sink the ship.

The Head of the truce monitors, Maj Gen Henricsson, told Tamilselvan, that he would consult the Norwegian facilitators on the issue of equal protection.

But experts do not see how the Norwegians could agree, given the Sri Lankan government's sensitivity in this matter.

As it is, the present government sees the CFA, signed by an earlier government without consulting anybody, as a "sell out".

Any further dilution of the government's rights in the CFA is most unlikely to be tolerated, the experts say.