Sri Lanka and cease-fire monitors lock-horns over armed groups
Shimali Senanayake in Colombo,
April 2nd, 2006.
The government and European cease-fire monitors have fired out letters
at each other over the existence of armed groups operating in
state-controlled areas with
both parties trading charges at each other just weeks ahead of the
next round of peace talks.
In a two-page letter addressed to the Defense Secretary Gotabhaya
Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission's outgoing chief Hagrup
Haukland said the monitors encountered 10-15 armed men in civilian
clothes operating in Valachchenai, who told SLMM that they belong to
the Karuna faction.
Haukland also referred to several "sighting of armed civilians
claiming to represent Karuna is often reported to SLMM."
Asserting that the monitors have strong suspicions about armed groups
also veering toward Vavuniya, the letter added the SLMM was aware of
11 civilians being killed in government-controlled areas in the east
and six in Vavuniya since Feb. 23rd , the day on which talks in Geneva
Haukland's letter was sent in response to the Defense Secretary's
strongly worded note about the contents of a SLMM statement issued
last week, after suspected Tigers sank a navy fast attack craft in
Kalpitiya, killing eight sailors. The navy said
the LTTE suicide boat was carrying "war-like weapons and ammunition."
In a single-page letter, Rajapakse accused the SLMM of "misleading,"
and making "defamatory," inferences in their statement. He was
specifically referring to paragraph 5 of the SLMM statement which
"The Sri Lankan Army has recently dismissed claims that armed groups
are operating in Government controlled areas. However, based on SLMM's
monitoring activities and experience on the ground the Mission does
not share the this view and we would like to urge the Government of
Sri Lanka to take this matter seriously and not close their eyes to
armed elements that are to our knowledge still operating in Government
The defense secretary charged the conclusion SLMM had arrived at was
"without any conclusive evidence." He subsequently asked for a meeting
with Haukland to discuss the issue.
Haukland responded in a letter the following day, March 30th
(Thursday), a day before he concluded his post as head of mission.
Defense secretary Mr. Rajapakse is part of the President's entourage
now on a state visit t Pakistan.
At the end of the Feb. 22-23 Geneva talks, both the government and the
Tigers vowed to end a spate of violence.
Although the rebels had earlier described the March 2003 Karuna
rebellion as an internal matter of the Tigers and asked the government
to stay out of the issue, that stand changed.
The February talks were dominated by demands by the Tigers to disarm
paramilitaries, specifically the Karuna group.
The guerrillas produced a dossier of what they called "evidence," of
government forces support toward the Karuna group. The military denies
Despite the SLMM assertions that the Karuna group continues to operate
from within government-controlled areas, it admits it has no evidence
of military support for the group.
The Tigers' chief negotiator Anton Balasingham said on Wednesday, the
next round of talks will also be dominated by the same issue if the
government fails to dismantle armed groups.
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Published: Sun Apr 2 04:36:49 EDT 2006