Major ceasefire crisis averted

By Shamindra Ferdinando
During frantic tripartite discussions involving the government, the LTTE and the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) early this week following an LTTE attempt to carry out a major sea movement in the east, the navy has stressed that the ceasefire agreement does not sanction such movements, authoritative sources said yesterday. About 250 cadres were to move in five or six Sea Tiger craft. They were to carry arms, the sources said.

The LTTE informed the government of its proposed movement through the SLMM, the sources said. It was its first bid to move cadres from the Wanni to the east since it moved over 200 heavily armed cadres including top eastern province commanders including Karuna in three boats on April 24.

"We strongly opposed their latest move," the sources said, adding that there was a series of contacts among the navy, the LTTE, the SLMM and the Peace Secretariat headed by Mr. Bernard Gunatilake. The sources expressed the belief that the LTTE was taking advantage of the ceasefire agreement to move cadres along with arms and equipment from its bases in the Wanni to the east.

The navy was placed on a heightened state of alert to block the movement between Mullaitivu and Vakarai, the sources said. Naval units were directed to act according to the rules of engagement. The government was briefed regularly, the sources said adding that the LTTE called off the sea movement at the eleventh hour. "They averted a major crisis by calling off the movement," the sources said.

But the sources did not rule out the possibility of the LTTE renewing its bid to move cadres to the east where there was evidence that it was engaged in strengthening its position, taking advantage of the ceasefire agreement.

The latest problem comes amidst the navy’s decision to seek deployment of ceasefire monitors in SLN craft in a bid to prevent the LTTE from levelling wild allegations against the navy. "We would like to have monitors on our vessels as soon as possible," a senior officer said, expressing confidence deployment of ceasefire monitors would be beneficial to the navy. It was not clear whether the LTTE too would agree to carry monitors on its craft, the source said.