Marapana denies CBK claims

Former Defence Minister, Thilak Marapana yesterday denied President Chandrika Kumaratunga's claims that crucial decisions relating to security were taken without consulting her. Addressing a press briefing at Gramodaya Centre on Sunday, Marapana stressed that she was always consulted by him or by the Prime Minister.

The following is Minister Marapana's full statement released at the press briefing

Statement by Mr. Tilak Marapana

My attention has been drawn to the statement made by the President over the electronic media and also given wide publicity in the print media, pertaining to certain incidents which she refers to as “exercised with callous irresponsibility” by me as the Minister of Defence. In her statement she has referred to several instances which she says makes it “crystal clear” that during the past two years the sovereignty of the State of Sri Lanka, its territorial integrity and the security of the nation, have been placed in grave danger “by acts of wilful commission and other acts of careless omission by some members of the Government.” I feel it my responsibility to respond to this statement and I do so as follows :

1. Neither I nor the Government has ever taken any decision of importance on the subject of defence without first consulting and discussing the issues involved with the President. Such matters are taken up with her either by the Prime Minister or myself as the Minister of Defence and at times at the Security Council meetings. The President has been kept well informed of the security situation, including the situation at Trincomalee, and the counter measures taken and proposed to be taken of any impending threat.

2. The President in her address stated that the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence gave instructions to release six shipments of arms brought into the country. This is absolutely incorrect. She has made a similar allegation previously and I had responded to this very categorically. Clear instructions have been given to the Navy to seek, and if necessary, destroy any vessels bringing in arms or warlike material to Sri Lanka. On several occasions acting on these instructions the Navy has infact taken action leading to the destruction of vessels suspected to smuggling arms into Sri Lanka. It baffles me as to why any one would ensure the destruction of some vessels whilst allowing other shipments to be made. The reference in her much quoted phrase “Turn a Blind-eye” was never made by me in this connection.

3. As for the construction of” camps” by the LTTE, these camps are mainly in the area to the south of Trincomalee harbour, which area had been virtually abandoned when the Army camps were withdrawn in 1995 for the Jaffna operation. All these “camps” except the Manirasakulam camp is in an area not fully dominated by the forces ever since the withdrawal of our camps in this area.

4. As regards the allegation pertaining to the Norwegian facilitators and their monitors, I wish to state that it was never their suggestion that the government agree to remove strategically crucial military camps or for the government to recognize “the LTTE’s illegal Naval Unit”. These are suggestions put forward by the LTTE and merely conveyed to the government by the Monitors. The government has repeatedly refuted any such demands. I find it surprising that the President is unaware of this position.

5. The President’s allegation that “about 60% of the attack craft of the Navy and Air craft was out of operation due to lack of spare parts for regular maintenance” is yet another absolutely incorrect statement. The fact is that in any fleet at any given point of time around 30% of the fleet is out of action for regular maintenance. But during the past two years, never has this increased to 60%. Money has always been allocated for maintenance and spare parts and never has any aircraft or vessel been out of action due to the lack of funds.

6. The President’s allegation that at the end of 2002 the “Army possessed less than one month's requirement of ammunition” is yet another incorrect and misleading statement. The Army has always maintained sufficient stocks of ammunition. Infact if there was no war during this period one may ask what happened to the stocks that were there in December 2001, when the new government came into office? There was a very temporary shortage of training ammunition due to the enhanced training program and a delay by 14 days of a shipment, which was rectified by air lifting the requirements, so as not to disrupt the training program.

In conclusion I wish to state that I feel sad that the President has chosen to cast these aspersions on me and the government. I yet believe that she has done so under a misconception rather than through mischief?