Sea Tigers deny involvement in trawler sinking
[TamilNet, Friday, 21 March 2003, 11:09 GMT]
The Liberation Tigers Friday denied accusations by the Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) that they were involved in the sinking of a Taiwanese trawler about 40km off the Mullaitivu coast. International monitors were investigating the incident in which seventeen Taiwanese sailors are said to have died. The Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) said information was sketchy and investigations were continuing.
Sea Tiger commanders said Friday that they had been informed by the SLMM late Thursday night that a trawler was reported to be sinking by the Sri Lanka Navy and had been asked by the monitors if Sea Tiger units were in the area.
The LTTE had informed the SLMM that none of their gunboats were in the area, which is being patrolled by Sri Lankan gunboats enforcing a naval blockade against LTTE-held territory. The LTTE had also informed the SLMM that they were not involved in the incident in any way, LTTE officials told TamilNet Friday.
Sources close to the SLMM said monitors had not received evidence to back up the Navy’s accusation against the LTTE. The captain of the sunk trawler was among the survivors, but he had refused to discuss the incident with the SLMM at this stage.
Meanwhile, there were conflicting reports regarding the incident. Initial reports had said a trawler flying a Taiwanese flag had been sunk leading to the death of seventeen people and the wounding of nine. Survivors are said to have been recovered by the Navy.
However subsequent reports reaching the SLMM said there were two trawlers in the area and one had sunk, its survivors being picked up by the other trawler. There were no details of what had caused the incident and investigations were continuing, sources close to the SLMM said.
Ten days ago the Sri Lanka Navy attacked and destroyed an LTTE-owned merchant vessel in international waters over 220 miles from the island’s eastern coast
The incident was taken up for discussion in the sixth round of peace talks between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government which concluded in Hakone, Japan Friday. Delegates discussed the tension at sea amid reports the Sri Lanka Navy had intensified patrols off LTTE-controlled shores on the island’s east.