LTTE, GOSL exchange detainees of war

[TamilNet, Saturday, 28 September 2002, 15:46 GMT]
The Liberation Tigers said Saturday that President Chandrika Kumaratunga's government was responsible for delaying the release of the last batch of Sri Lankan army and Navy personnel in their custody by not acting on the matter with "prudent and humanitarian consideration." The LTTE and the Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe's government exchanged prisoners of war as part of the peace building process to end the island's ethnic conflict Saturday in Omanthai, on the southern border of the Vanni region.

The commanders of the LTTE's Northern and Western Front Forces and the commander of its artillery division met the commanders of the Sri Lanka army and navy at a special ceremony for the POW exchange Saturday around 11.30 a.m.

Col. Theepan (left) and Col. Banu (right) with a SLA officer

Col. Bhanu, the commander of the LTTE's artillery division received 'Kennedy', a trooper who was trapped during a commando raid on the sole airstrip of the Sri Lanka army's sprawling Palaly base in Jaffna in 1994.

Col. Jeyam, the commander of the LTTE's Western Front Forces and Col. Theepan, the commander of the LTTE's Northern Front Forces received the released Tigers.

The commander of the Sri Lanka Navy Daya Sandagiri received Captain Ajith Boyagoda whose wife, mother and brothers were present for the tearful reunion.

The Liberation Tigers freed seven POWs and the GOSL released thirteen LTTE troopers in exchange.

Addressing the ceremony, Mr. Thangan, a senior official of the political division of the Liberation Tigers said Mr. Velupillai Pirapakaran has arranged the release of several batches of POWs from time to time purely on humanitarian grounds.

"The reunion of these families gives us great pleasure for we cherish family values. We consider this occasion as another peace dividend and hope that similar gestures of goodwill would form the foundation of confidence building, a vital element in the peace process," Mr. Thangan said.

"While expressing our sense of satisfaction in the reunion of these families, we expect that similar steps be initiated for the release and reunion of several hundreds of Tamil youth languishing in Sri Lankan prison," he stressed.

Wishing the released Sri Lankan armed forces personnel, the Secretary to the Ministry of Defence, Mr. Austin Fernando said "May they, like President Mandela, who spent 27 years on Robin Island in solitary confinement and transcended hate and bitterness for his oppressors, put behind them the past and work with us towards a happier and better future."

"The prisoner release also signifies the beginning of a partnership in which we need to co-operate closely on many matters, including de-mining, the resettlement of IDPs, the resumption of agriculture and other forms of livelihood in development, creation of job opportunities, social and cultural renaissance."

Exchange POW 3
SLA's captain Ajith Boyagoda speaking to an SLA officer after his release

"Participation of the LTTE and the GOSL representatives too endorses the ability to work together as partners in progress. It shows togetherness, which was lacking for twenty years," the Secretary to Sri Lanka's Ministry of Defence said.

More than 70 international and local media personel covered the ceremony. The Secretary to Sri Lanka's Ministry of Interior, the Government Agent for Vavuniya and the head of delegation of the ICRC were also present at the POW exchange.


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