Counterclaims over 'Princess Kash' bombing

[TamilNet, Sunday, 16 August 1998, 12:14 GMT]
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has secured the consent of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) for the handover of the 17 Indian nationals on board the cargo vessel Princess Kash, reported Radio Sri Lanka (RSL) in its evening news broadcast yesterday.

The radio said the ICRC was at present working out logistics to transport the Indian crew out of Mullaitivu. The situation with regards to the four Sri Lankan crew is not known said the RSL.

The ICRC visited the Indian crewmen on 15 August and the Red Cross expects that they will be released shortly.

The radio also said that Shivshankar Menon, the Indian High Commissioner in Sri Lanka had met Sri Lanka President Chandrika Kumaratunga on Friday regarding the allegation that the Indian captain and crew of the vessel were acting in connivance with the LTTE.

The Sri Lanka Government (SLG), in its communiqué issued by the Department of Information yesterday stated that there was indications that the captain was working with the LTTE, compelling the SLG to order the destruction of the ship.

The cargo ship, "Princes Kash" that was initially reported to have been hijacked by the LTTE at the Mullaitivu sea was bombed by Sri Lankan airforce Kfir bombers at 4.15am on 14 August.

The Sri Lankan Navy announced that the privately owned cargo ship which was bound for Point Pedro on the Jaffna peninsula with 60 tons of cargo, was hijacked by the LTTE in the Mullaitivu sea in early hours of 14 August.

The ship, with loaded goods, started its journey with 21 crewmen on the night of August 12 from Colombo harbour. The SLN said the ship was surrounded by Sea Tiger gunboats on 14 August and was escorted towards the Mullaitivu coast line.

According to Sri Lankan government sources, the cargo included 30 tons of cement and asbestos, intended for the Jaffna BMC (Building Material Corporation). The other 30 tonns of cargo, with an estimated value of 500 million rupees, was intended for the private market said the sources.

The cargo included 10 tractors, 100 motor cycles, 20 3-wheeled auto- rickshaws, Landmaster engines, Hi-Ace vans, cars, electrical goods, hardware parts, wine and spirits, and clothing and grocery items.

The BMC load was about 300 lorry-loads and the other items amounted to 400 lorry-loads. Of the 100,000 bags of cement which was loaded in the ship, 65,000 was intended to BMC and the rest was intended for the private market. Asbestos seats were also loaded for BMC.

The BMC is reported to have insured its cargo for 50 million rupees. However the 500 million rupees worth private cargo was not insured said sources.

The ship is owned by a Dubai based company, K.G. Investment and is registered in Colombo harbour. It was hired by Goodwill Shipping limited for transporting cargo between Colombo and Jaffna. The ship was on its first route to Point-Pedro.

H. Gunawardane of the ICRC said that the managing director of the shipping company had contacted the ICRC and requested their help to free the ship along with its cargo.

The Sri Lankan navy sources said first that they were monitoring the anchored ship in Mullaitivu and the movements of LTTE in that area. However the ship had sailed towards the coast in violations of standing regulations said a navy officer.

Sri Lankan authorities have issued a regulation that vessels bound for Jaffna should not navigate inside a 50 mile exclusion zone from the coast. The SLN says that after observing the ship inside the restricted area, it had hailed the vessel, reminding it of the regulation, but no response had been received.

SLN sources said the navy continued to issue the orders to from 10 am to 2.30 pm

The SLN said the crew was then warned to evacuate the ship and warning shots were fired towards the vessel. The navy says it also fired at boats that were surrounding the cargo ship.

The deadline to evacuate the ship was extended by a further 30 minutes said the SLN, after the expiration of which, the navy tried to destroy the ship.

In the report issued by SLN it has stated that as the behaviour of the captain of the ship appeared to be "acting in connivance with the LTTE", their doubts were strengthened and they were forced to act, to prevent the delivery of "dangerous merchandise" to the Tigers.

The Voice of Tigers (VoT) radio said that before the ship was bombed, the captain, V. N. Capro, had informed the Sri Lankan Navy that they were being investigated by the LTTE and that it was possible to solve the problem by negotiations. The VoT said the captain had requested the SLN requested not to take any military action until then.

The VoT said that the captain had made the same request to the Sri Lankan government through the ICRC.

The VoT added that the ship was bombed by two Sri Lankan Kfir bombers irrespective of this request and the risk to the lives of the crewmen.

Meanwhile in Jaffna, Mr. M. Sathananthan, son of Mr. Murugesu, (a well known local businessman) and the Manager Mr. Jeyaranjith were arrested by Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in Colombo regarding this ship issue.

The businessmen who were the intended recipients of the cargo have reportedly complained to the Government Agent of Jaffna on 15 August that the Sri Lankan government should be held responsible for the loss since the ship was destroyed by the SLN.


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