Ceasefire agreement no bar to reconnaissance flights

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Rejecting LTTE claims that SLAF reconnaissance flights over the North-East is "a negation of the confidence building exercise undertaken by the government," authoritative security forces officers said that the SLAF retains the right to continue with flights over any part of the country and the North-East seas.

Israeli built Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) would continue with routine surveillance activities, they said, expressing the belief these flights were not in violation of the ceasefire agreement between the government and the LTTE. "The agreement does not prohibit carrying out surveillance by both sides" by an officer said, pointing out there was a requirement to continue with air and naval reconnaissance. The officer claimed that the LTTE wants to put an end to reconnaissance flights for obvious reasons.

LTTE’s head of the political section S. P. Tamilchelvam has urged Norwegian Major General Trond Furuhovde-led Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) to prevail upon the government to desist from launching UAVs. "This aerial surveillance constitutes a violation of the spirit of the truce agreement," Tamilchelvam has said in a letter to Major General Furuhovde, adding that such action was tantamount to a negation of the confidence building exercise undertaken by the government of Sri Lanka.

The officers said they were aware that the LTTE twice complained to the SLMM over continuing UAV flights. UAVs were acquired in 1996. "They soon became the airforce’s only source of reliable information and real time intelligence," the airforce said.

An SLMM source yesterday said they have informed the government of the LTTE’s stance with regard to continuing UAV flights over the North-East. "We have not received government’s response yet," the source said.