CBK continues to provide security for Tigers

by Shamindra Ferdinando
Signalling that it accepts President Kumaratunga’s pledge to honour the Norwegian arranged cease-fire agreement, an LTTE delegation moved overland from the Wanni to Bandaranaike Iinternational Airport (BIA) on Friday, authoritative sources said.

It is the first such overland movement since the President, early last month, brought the defence, interior and mass communication ministries under her purview. Her unprecedented action fuelled speculation that the LTTE would not use the BIA unless the government regained the defence portfolio.

The Defence Ministry authorised the deployment of troops to guard the delegation led by S. Pulithevan, head of the Tigers peace secretariat, the sources said.

The delegation was escorted from the entry-exit point at Omanthai to a star class hotel near the BIA. Subsequently, the delegation left for South Africa early on Saturday. The delegation is expected to return in the second week of December.

Replying to questions, the sources said: "...procedures relating to overland movements to and from the Wanni and at the BIA remain intact. They didn’t ask to be airlifted, probably because political wing leader S.P. Thamilchelvan and eastern commander Karuna weren’t among the delegation."

The LTTE’s Jaffna district leader Eliyampathy too was in Colombo last week. Agnes Bragadottir, spokesperson for the Scandinavian monitors said that he was brought in one of the truce monitors’ vehicles.

The President’s advisors are in the process of reviewing existing procedures in providing free chopper rides to LTTE cadres.

"They will not be denied the facility. But choppers would be made available depending on the requirement and the seniority of the cadres," informed sources said.

The SLFP, JVP, Sihala Urumaya and the MEP have repeatedly rapped the government for meeting the LTTE’s frequent requests for chopper rides. The opposition has been particularly critical of the deployment of choppers to carry LTTE cadres within the north-east province.