Peace Monitors Have Sounded A Viable Alarm About Impending LTTE Air Capability Where A Quick Response Seems Imperative!

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Albeit somewhat surprisingly, the Norwegian Peace Monitors led by Hagrup Haukland, perhaps slighted by the LTTE's refusal to investigate the information of a clandestine airstrip at Killinochchi have openly confirmed its existence based on a recent aerial surveillance flight while concluding that " the 'air assets' of separatist Tamil Tiger rebels could re-ignite war on the island and destabilise security in South Asia. " They have also somewhat presumptuously contended that quote"any move by the Government Forces to bomb it could lead to the resumption of war" end quote so what do they suggest as an alternative and what exactly is their role relative to it ? It is also curious that they have suggested the option of Governmental bombardment of this airstrip as being negative as opposed to a direct dialogue with the LTTE which would categorically seem equally negative given their track record of reneging on signed accords in the past. Something the Norwegians cannot dispute!

This undoubtedly also brings to bear the delicate balance of the state of tranquility within Sri Lanka at present offset against LTTE violations of this nature and where all this would lead to should the LTTE be granted any further leeway without immediate remedial action by the forces which matter which in this instance points towards the Sri Lankan Government and India!

Many burning questions come to the minds consequently of the more discerning observers particulary those in opposition to the Joint Mechanism for Tsunami Relief which continues to be a contentious issue as they would also be compelled to contend quite justifiably that the building of an airstrip by the LTTE in the Wanni is a direct violation of the Peace Accord and further their argument in favour of discontinuing any means which would provide platforrms towards furthering the LTTE's terrorist objectives. Have not these internationally and nationally outlawed terrorist exceeded by far their entitlemets ( if they had any to begin with!) and have they not gone far enough to be confronted, quelled and dissuaded of their aerial power ambits regardless of what it takes in order to maintain Sri Lanka's sovereignity and territorial integrity? An exercise for Indian participation also, given the implications any air capability by the LTTE would have on India and the Region if put into perspective, India being a Regional Superpower and not to be trifled with despite the arrogance of the LTTE and such a manouvre!

The Peace Monitor leader Hagrup in a single bated breath has admitted to the danger such an air strip and the possession of aerial capability by the terrorists would pose not only to Sri Lanka but also to the entire region of South Asia particularly India and has perhaps added much grist to the mills of necessity of both Sri Lanka and India to spur them on towards positive action with whatever is necessary to dismantle and destabilise and render totally ineffective the threat of such a danger despite the cautionary rhetoric of the Norwegian Hagrup and his team!

An immediate dialogue probably needs to be set in place through a joint effort by both the Governments of Sri Lanka and India for starters indicating an authoritative stance in confronting this bold manouvre by what many see as a depleted group of outlawed terrorists and further deterrent action taken to search and destroy if necessary before the LTTE take for granted their illegal stance and attempt to improve on it. As the Norwegians have alluded there is an urgency which confronts the likelihood of an impending regional disaster should the LTTE be granted any footholds towards the eventual consolidation of what they probably foresee as a strategic advantage relative to their mendacious and illegal means but in reality perhaps suicidal towards their very existence which would eventually augur well towards the best interests of Sri Lanka, India and the entire region and the dismantling of complete LTTE terrorist effectivity!

The following is an extract of the latest bulletin to this effect released by the Norwegian Peace Monitor's leader Hagrup Haukland courtesy of Yahoo news and Lanka Page.

"We have seen the air strip from the air while flying in a Sri Lankan military helicopter," Monitoring Mission chief Hagrup Haukland told the Foreign Correspondents' Association of Sri Lanka on Thursday night.

He said his mission, which monitors a truce that started on February 23, 2002, had been denied access by the rebels to verify government charges that they possess at least two light aircraft.

Haukland said an air capability would "mean a hell of a lot" to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). He warned that "it not only destabilises Sri Lanka's security but India's security as well".

"If the Tigers fly, it will be a violation of Sri Lankan airspace and also of international law because the air space is a matter only for the Sri Lankan government," he said.

"If the (government) air force bombs the air strip, then it will be war. If bombs fall, we pull out."

He said the 60-member Scandinavian truce monitoring team had repeatedly asked the Tigers to allow them access to the island's northern Iranamadu area, where the air strip is located.

"We have asked for access and we have been denied," he said. "That alone is a ceasefire violation."

He added that he was still hopeful the guerrillas would eventually allow in the monitors, who have no executive powers to enforce the ceasefire and rely on the goodwill of both parties.

India, which once armed and trained the Tigers, warned earlier this month that the Tigers were acquiring aircraft.

"We are concerned about the LTTE having built an airstrip and having two aeroplanes, and there's news about more coming," India's Foreign Minister Natwar Singh said.

New Delhi armed, trained and provided safe haven to the separatists in the mid-1980s but moved to disarm them after its 1987 peace pact with Colombo.

The LTTE repudiated the peace plan and ended up fighting Indian troops. The Indian army withdrew after a 32-month deployment that saw 1,200 of their troops killed in clashes against the Tigers.

Since then, India had maintained a hands-off policy towards its southern neighbour. However, Sri Lanka and peace broker Norway have ensured New Delhi is kept fully informed in the current peace process.

Diplomats say that any peace deal in Sri Lanka will need India's tacit approval, because New Delhi considers the island of 19.5 million people as part of its sphere of geo-political influence.

Haukland said that, although peace talks had broken down in April 2003, he believed neither party was likely to withdraw from the truce any time soon.

"The no-war, no-peace situation can last for a year, two or longer," Haukland said. "There have been ceasefire agreements that went on for longer without peace talks."

The monitors have found that the Tigers were responsible for 2,837 truce violations up to April, compared to 129 violations by government forces. Most of the Tigers' violations related to the recruitment of child soldiers.



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