Gotabhaya warns of ‘mercenaries in INGO garb’

Calls for tighter controls

by Shamindra Ferdinando

Defence Secretary Colonel (redt) Gotabhaya Rajapakse recently expressed concern over the possibility of mercenaries entering the LTTE-held territory in the guise of foreign relief workers.

Rajapakse expressed the belief that their recent decision to tighten controls was primarily to prevent the LTTE and unscrupulous elements among the ‘INGO circuit’ from taking advantage of the situation.

Replying a query, raised by an Ambassador representing an EU country at Friday’s briefing of the Colombo-based diplomatic community, Rajapakse emphasised that tightened controls would be of pivotal importance. Foreign Secretary H. M. G. S. Palihakkara attended the briefing along with Peace Secretariat Chief Palitha Kohona.

US investigators said that an LTTE arms smuggling ring recently arrested in connection with an attempt to procure ten Russian-built surface to air anti-aircraft missiles (SA-18) also sought to hire foreign trainers. The LTTE expected them to travel to their territory.

Responding to criticism that the government undermined relief and emergency work undertaken by INGOs, Rajapakse said that all relief groups were asked to register with the Defence Ministry. "We asked them to furnish the relevant information. We really wanted to know what they were doing," he told The Island, adding, "They ignored this. In fact we gave them four months to comply with our requirement. But they got upset when their vehicles carrying supplies to areas under LTTE control were denied entry."

A further three weeks was given after they made representations to the Foreign Ministry. Rajapakse said that he was determined to prevent abuses which if allowed could pose a serious threat to national security.

The Defence Ministry intends to set up a comprehensive data-base. "This should include their funding and funding sources," Rajapakse said.



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