Daily Archives: February 28, 2007
By Walter Jayawardhana
MANY DIPLOMATS REFUSE THE LTTE CONTENTION THAT THE LTTE FIRED AT THEM DUE TO IGNORANCE OF THEIR ARRIVAL
German ambassador Juergen Weerth (left) Italian ambassador Pio Mariani (center) and European Union Delegation head Julian Wilson arrived in Colombo after the LTTE mortar attack (photo AFP)
Replying the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) charge that it was the Sri Lanka government that put the ambassadors who were attacked by them were put in harm’s way by not informing about their flight to Batticaloa a former head of the Sri Lankan Peace Secretariat said there had never been such a practice of informing the Tamil Tigers of the advanced flight details of ambassadors traveling inside Sri Lanka.
Ambassador Bernard Goonetilleke, the Sri Lankan envoy in Washington DC who formerly headed the Peace Secretariat in Colombo, commenting on the LTTE excuse that the government had failed to inform them in advance of the movement of aircraft, stated, “Since signing the Ceasefire Agreement in February 2002 and even prior to that, there was never a practice of providing information in advance to the LTTE of aircraft movement.”
After a mortar attack on the ambassadors and UN workers who were on a humanitarian mission to Batticaloa in Eastern Sri Lanka the LTTE admitted to the attack and expressed their deep regret about it but blamed the government for putting them in a harm’s way by not informing them about their flight to a government controlled province from Colombo to help in the re-settlement activities of war refugees in the area.
Brigadier Prasad Samarasinghe, Sri Lanka Military spokesman said the LTTE’s attack on the ambassadors were deliberate since their trip to Batticaloa was well publicized among government officials, NGO’s, civil committee representatives and other public institutions in the area over a week before with scheduled program details. Recalling the ordeal in Batticaloa, he said quoting eyewitnesses that LTTE with precision targeted the bigger helicopter (MI 17) that was carrying the majority of the delegation that were to discuss matters related to resettlement of displaced Tamil people. The first small helicopter (212) after dropping several state officials at the same location at first flew away facilitating the VIP entourage to land afterwards. `So how could one argue that it was not targeted? This was a deliberate attempt of homicide planned by terrorists after learning the air movement of the VIPs,` Military Spokesman Brigadier Prasad Samarasinghe further said.
The delegation on a humanitarian mission comprised the Ambassadors of the US, the EU, Germany, Japan, Italy and France, Resident Coordinators of the World Food Program, UNICEF, FAO and UN security staff. Sri Lanka’s Minister of Disaster Management and Human Rights, Mr. Mahinda Samarasinghe led the delegation. The mission was to assess the ongoing resettlement program currently in progress in the Eastern Province. These areas have now been substantially cleared of Tamil Tigers, and internally displaced persons (IDPs) are currently being resettled there.
The US Ambassador in Sri Lanka Mr. Robert Blake and the Italian Ambassador in Sri Lanka Mr. Pio Mariani and the UN Resident Coordinator in Sri Lanka, were slightly injured in the attack as were several police, air force and army personnel and personnel attached to the government Peace Secretariat and the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights. Altogether, ten persons were wounded in the attack.
The Sri Lankan Consul General in Los Angeles, Jaliya Wickramasuriya further commenting about the LTTE assertion said it was a surprise that the LTTE who are having an elaborate spy network in the Eastern Province claim to say that they did not know the arrival of the most important foreign ambassadors in Colombo for a conference in Batticaloa. He said he was hundred per cent sure that the ambassadors and the UN workers were deliberately attacked.
Michael Lummaux, French Ambassador in Sri Lanka who narrowly escaped unhurt in the Tiger terrorists` mortar attack along with several others vowed that his country with the help of international community would do everything possible to wipe out terrorism.
Talking to media personnel in Colombo minutes after his abrupt return to Colombo with others following the LTTE mortar attack earlier on the day said that this was the first-ever terrorist attack experienced in his life in the execution of his legitimate duties as an Ambassador.
“This is the first time in my life I got caught to a terrorist attack of this nature. I was terribly frightened. This act goes against all conventions of war. Before we proceeded to Batticaloa we informed all our corresponding agents in Batticaloa, both diplomatic and state levels of the pending meeting. We have now had first-hand experience of LTTE terrorism, and we would definitely take it up at international level,” he said.
By Walter Jayawardhana
LARGE LTTE ARMS CARRYING VESSEL DESTROYED BY SRI LANKA NAVY OFF DONDRA POINT
The Sri Lanka navy fired and destroyed a 70 meter long arms carrying vessel of the Librtion Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) off the Dondra point of the Southern province of Sri Lanka.
The vessel caught fire and was sinking slowly in the Indian Ocean about 190 nautical miles South of the port of Galle, a Navy spokesman said.
Fishermen in the area reported they heard a series of explosions in the sinking ship indicating that the LTTE vessel was carrying large hauls of explosives.
“We fired warning shots and they fired at us,” said Commander D K P Dassanayake, a Navy spokesman. “The ship is on fire and we can see a series of explosions,” he further said.
Dasssanayaka said the confrontation took place in Sri Lanka’s territorial waters and away from international shipping lanes.
Brigadier Prasad Samarasinghe, the Sri Lanka Army spokesman said,”We repeatedly tried to check the identity of the vessel, but neither will it give one, nor will it stop forcing us to take action.”
The incident took place one day after the LTTE tried to attack a humanitarian mission by all Western diplomats visiting the country’s Eastern Province was fired at by mortar fire by the LTTE.
The Ministry of Defense in a statement said, “The vessel sailing in deep seas around 185 nautical miles off ‘Dondra Point’ without a flag was detected by the Navy around 04.30 a.m. today(28). The ship had completely ignored the warning shots fired by the Navy patrol craft to stop. Instead the vessel had opened fire towards the Naval units. Subsequently the Navy retaliated with gun fire at the suspected vessel at about 08.30 a.m.”
It further said, “Naval intelligence units believe that the LTTE movement comprising a cluster of terrorists boats yesterday(27), to be a diversion plot to make it easier to the LTTE arms vessel, apprehended further down south today(28).”
SriLankan Navy destroys a Tamil Tiger terrorist Arms Vessel – Video
By Walter Jayawardhana
UN SECRETARY GENERAL BAN-KI MOON CONDEMNS THE LTTE ATTACK ON UN WORKERS WITH AMBASSADORS
The United nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the attack by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka which injured senior aid officials, including one from the United Nations, and urged both sides in the conflict to halt the bloodshed and resume talks.
In the attack at Batticaloa, in Eastern Sri Lanka the US Ambassador in Colombo Robert Blake and his Italian counterpart Pio Mariani were injured. Pio Mariani was immediately rushed to the Batticaloa Teaching Hospital and airlifted to Colombo with some minor head injuries. The European Union also has condemned the attack.
Mr. Ban’s statement came in reaction to the shelling by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) of a helicopter airfield in Batticaloa in eastern Sri Lanka, where 12 people, including the UN Resident Coordinator and other members of a high-ranking international delegation taking part in a humanitarian assessment mission, were injured, according to a statement released by his spokesperson condemning the incident.
“The attack was in total disregard for the lives of civilians, humanitarian workers, Government officials, and the international community,” Michele Montas told reporters in New York.
“The Secretary-General urges the parties to the conflict to end the destructive spiral of violence and calls on them to make every effort to return to the peace process as soon as possible,” she said.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees and other agencies have been struggling to assist tens of thousands of civilians who have fled fighting between the Government and the LTTE.
UNHCR estimates that some 70,000 people have been killed and 465,000 displaced by the more than two decade-long conflict, including nearly 205,000 uprooted since fighting erupted anew in April 2006 despite a ceasefire signed in 2002.