Def. Secy wants SLMM to tackle possible crisis
Fearing Sihala Urumaya protest may lead to violence

by Shamindra Ferdinando
Fearing a planned Sihala Urumaya protest at the hotly disputed Manirasakulam (Kurangupaanchan) LTTE camp tomorrow (14) would provoke violence, the government has sought truce monitors’ help to tackle a possible crisis.

Defence Secretary Austin Fernando has discussed this with Norwegian Maj. Gen. (Retd) Tryggve Tellefsen, head of the monitoring mission. "Yes. I have written to Maj. Gen. Tellefsen regarding tomorrow’s protest," Fernando told The Island, emphasising the need to prevent needless incidents.

"I have cautioned the truce monitors. We want them to prevent any violation of the provisions of the cease-fire agreement," Fernando said. Replying to questions, he said: "It is not clear what Sihala Urumaya activists want to do. According to some reports they’ll engage in a peaceful protest. But some reports indicate they plan to remove the LTTE camp."

Maj. Gen. Tellefsen was not available for comment. But his deputy Hagrup Haukland said:"We’ll be assessing the situation and then get back to the Defence Secretary."

A Sihala Urumaya spokesperson said that they will go ahead with their protest. "The government has no option but to provide us the required security," he said, pointing out the monitors themselves have ruled the camp has been set up in the government-administered area in clear violation of the cease-fire agreement. This ruling was given in June. "We have every right to engage in protests in our areas," he said, pointing out the LTTE and its front organisations carry out protests in government-held areas on regular basis.

About 500 Sihala Urumaya activists are likely to join the protest.

"We are in a dilemma. We are not in a position to provide them security at Manirasankulam for obvious reasons," a senior security official said. The LTTE, he said, would definitely use force if protesters tried to enter the 20-acre camp surrounded by paddy fields and an irrigation tank bund. He did not rule out the possibility of the government using force to halt the protest march from proceeding beyond Kantalai.