Navy commander declares islands ‘military zones’
[TamilNet, Saturday, 27 April 2002, 02:01 GMT]
The Sri Lanka Navy is defending its denial of access to the Liberation Tigers’ political cadres from the islets around the Jaffna peninsula, press reports said Saturday. In a letter to the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM), a senior SLN commander declared the islets, which are home to many Tamil civilians, as military zones and hence off limits to the LTTE’s political cadres, the Virakesari newspaper reported.
The SLN’s stance was criticised by Tamil MP Mavai Senathirajah who acidly pointed out that nobody knew that the densely populated island of Kayts was a militarised zone as Rear Admiral Weerasena, Northern Naval Area (Comnorth), had claimed.
“Even if it was so, it entails a breach of the ceasefire accord,” he said. “We cannot accept a military commander’s arbitrary designation of an area as ‘militarised’, regardless of whether an agreement was in force or not.”
“Some of our party members were murdered during campaign work in this so-called military zone last year, while there were attempts to murder others,” the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MP said in reference to an attack on party activists prior to the December elections by paramilitaries working alongside the security forces.
“If the commander claims this was a militarised zone then he should accept full responsibility for those incidents,” Senathirajah said.
“Two matters should be carefully looked at here. Firstly, the SLMM should reply to the commander’s views. Secondly, the Sri Lanka government should reveal its stance on military commanders expressing opinions on their own accord,” the MP further said.
The dispute began on 12 April when Sri Lanka naval personnel guarding the route to Kayts barred a group of LTTE political cadres who had entered government controlled territory under the terms of the indefinite ceasefire 9signed on February 22) from entering the islet.
A complaint was subsequently made to the SLMM by the Tigers. Rear Admiral Weerasena then wrote to the SLMM claiming that the navy had established forward defence lines around Kayts, Punkudutivu, Mandaitivu, Eluvativu, Analativu and Nainativu.
These were set up along with observation posts to stop infiltration [by the Tigers] and to ensure security, the commander said, adding that since clause 1.13 of the ceasefire agreement stipulated Tiger cadres were not to conduct political work in military controlled areas, this effectively barred the them from entering the islets. They would, however, be allowed in for personnel business under clause 1.12, the commander said.
“Video, photography equipment, telecommunications equipment and cyanide capsules would not be allowed in. The reasons for not allowing cameras are plain. Telecommunication s equipment could be used to activate remote controlled devices. And the cyanide capsules could be considered a danger to life,” Rear Admiral Weerasena claimed.