Tamil paramilitaries pose risk to truce – Karikalan
[TamilNet, Friday, 15 March 2002, 16:11 GMT]
(News Feature) The deputy leader of the political wing of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the head of its Batticaloa - Amparai section said this week that the movement was committed to the terms and conditions of the permanent ceasefire agreement and that the LTTE was engaging in the peace process from a position of strength. In an interview to TamilNet at the LTTE’s district political head office in Kokkaddicholai, Mr. Karikalan said that harassment of civilians by the Sri Lankan armed forces in the Batticaloa-Amparai district was continuing and Tamil paramilitaries working with the army had not been disarmed yet.
He said heavy firing by Sri Lankan troops training in their camps was creating tension amongst the local populace and that at least two civilians had been wounded by army fire.
“It was brave of the Sri Lanka prime-minister Ranil Wickramasinghe to sign a truce and implement it while the head of the Sri Lanka armed forces, President Chandrika Kumarathunghe, is still in power. His actions have given the LTTE confidence [in him],” Mr. Karikalan said.
“President Chandrika Kumaratunga was unable to control the Sri Lankan armed forces during the [former] Peoples Alliance government's reign. When she gave assurances that the economic blockade of the LTTE-controlled areas would be lifted during the 1994 peace negotiations, her own army officers in Vavuniya refused to let goods pass,” he said.
“But now, the Prime Minister has taken measures to lift the blockade and allowed unimpeded movement of goods despite the Sri Lanka armed forces not being under his direct control. These measure taken by him give us considerable encouragement. We believe he will continue to take similar bold steps when it comes to negotiations too,” Mr Karikalan said.
“As far as we are concerned, we are engaging in the peace process neither to strengthen ourselves nor out of any weakness. We invited the Sri Lanka government to negotiate in the wake of expelling the 'Jayasikurui' forces and again after capturing the Elephant Pass base complex. We have not offered to negotiate in order to regroup as some parties in the south such as the JVP and Sihala Urumaya claim.”
“We seek neither war nor destruction. Our wish is that the Tamil people achieve a fair solution based on our right to self-determination. All our cadres have undertaken to diligently implementing the ceasefire agreement signed by our leader [Vellupillai Pirapaharan].”
“We have accepted the ceasefire agreement and are fully complying with it. Those in our ranks who breach this will face severe punishment. The Sri Lanka prime minister initiating steps to implement the clauses set out in the agreement is a step forward,” Mr. Karikalan said further.
However, Mr. Karikalan cautioned that Tamil paramilitaries working with the Sri Lankan armed forces had not been disarmed as per the terms of the ceasefire, and said this could prove problematic when LTTE cadres began political activities in Army-controlled areas.
“Tamil militias in the East are yet to be stripped of their weapons. Therefore, the question arises as to how our cadres can engage in unarmed political activity in Sri Lanka army-controlled areas from the 22nd of this month,” he said. Mr Karikalan recalled that many Liberation Tigers had lost their lives in 1987 whist they were unarmed as per the terms of the Indo-Sri Lanka accord and were attacked by Tamil paramilitaries working with government forces.
According to the permanent ceasefire agreement, up to 50 LTTE cadres are permitted to enter Army controlled areas for political work a month after its signing on February 22, to be followed by another 100 a month after that and as many as required a further month later. But Mr. Karikalan said that despite the risk, LTTE cadres would continue their plans to engage in political work in Army controlled areas in the coming weeks and months.