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.