LTTE orders Catholic clergy not to speak ill of them
US Ambassador Wills learns that Tigers don’t change

By Shamindra Ferdinando
US Ambassador Ashley Wills, who was in Batticaloa last week for a first hand briefing of the situation in the Batticaloa district, was told of the intensified forced recruitment campaign, extortion and abductions by the LTTE when he met with the army top brass in charge of the district.

The officer-in-command of the Batticaloa brigade briefed the US ambassador at his headquarters, military sources said yesterday while expressing the belief that the US delegation that included their Colombo-based defence advisor Lt. Colonel Frank Rindone was able to get a first hand account of the worsening situation.

William Avery, Economic Affairs Officer was also present.

The sources said that on the day of the visit, the army monitored and recorded a directive given by an unidentified LTTE leader in the Wanni to the man in charge of Batticaloa operations, to direct the Catholic clergy ‘not to talk bad about the LTTE,’ when they meet with the visiting US delegation. "We gave the ambassador a tape containing the message," the sources said while explaining that the LTTE was engaged in a major psychological operation to prevent people from expressing concern over the way the LTTE was taking advantage of the truce between the two sides.

"We hope we succeeded in convincing the US delegation of the way the LTTE was taking advantage of the cease-fire to bolster their strength," the sources said.

Responding to questions, the sources said that the US delegates raised several contentious issues. The army explained their position with regard to the cease-fire with the LTTE and other related matters, the sources said.

The US delegation also held discussions with senior government officials and clergy in Batticaloa.

A two-member British High Commission delegation too visited Batticaloa immediately after the US concluded their visit. They were also briefed of the situation, the sources said while adding that diplomats from several countries including Canada and Italy visited Batticaloa since the two sides suspended hostilities on December 24 last year pending a mutual cease-fire agreement.