Friday, Aug 15, 2003
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By Amit Baruah
The Senior Adviser to the Sri Lankan President on Foreign Affairs claimed that the Tigers had put up 11 "bases" around the southern rim of the port after the "ceasefire" with the Sri Lankan Government.
Suicide boats had been detected in coves around the port, as have vessels with powerful outboard knots. "Artillery pieces have also been spotted. The oil tanks which are situated near the China Bay are totally vulnerable... there are some IOC personnel already there."
Mr. Kadirgamar, who has had meetings with the External Affairs Minister, Yashwant Sinha, and the National Security Adviser, Brajesh Mishra, said that any damage done to the Sri Lankan Navy in Trincomalee could well cut the supply line to the Palali base in the Jaffna peninsula.
"I believe that the Indian Government is now alert to this danger. Because any threat to Sri Lanka must surely constitute a threat to India's legitimate, sovereign interests in the Indian Ocean."
On the current peace process in Sri Lanka, Mr. Kadirgamar said that India was not seeking any role.
"India has no intention of being a mediator or facilitator... India has always said, rightly said, that it would like to see a negotiated, peaceful settlement of the problem. So do we..."
"The question is the price. I do not believe that India can tolerate a separate State... India has a legitimate interest in whatever constitutional arrangement that is going to be reached in Sri Lanka in addition to a legitimate interest about the situation on the ground," he said.
`Landbridge idea wholly premature'
Asked about the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, Jayalalithaa's warning against going through with the land bridge project between India and Sri Lanka as well as the ferry service, Mr. Kadirgamar said the land bridge idea was "wholly premature".
"It will be enormously expensive and I fully understand and appreciate Ms. Jayalalithaa's security concerns. As to the ferry, it will have to be handled with great care. At this point of time, security considerations cannot be dispensed with."
Any talk of free and easy access between the two countries, particularly Tamil Nadu, was not feasible, he added.
Referring to the ground situation, Mr. Kadirgamar said that daily killings of political opponents by the Tigers continued not just in Jaffna but also in Colombo. Though it was being argued that the LTTE's chief negotiator in the interrupted peace process, Anton Balasingham, was unwell, it appeared that he had been sidelined by the LTTE chief, Velupillai Prabakaran.
`A voice of moderation'
To an extent, Mr. Balasingham was a voice of moderation that was prepared to drive a hard bargain for a negotiated settlement. Today, it was S.P. Thamilchelvam who was being promoted and Mr. Balasingham was not expected to attend an "internal" Tiger meeting in Paris. "All the signs are that Mr. Balasingham will not participate in the Paris meeting," he said.
On the Ranil Wickremesinghe Government's proposal for an interim administration, Mr. Kadirgamar maintained that such a move would only "legitimise" the LTTE. Linking an interim administration to a final solution, he claimed that there had been no talks, so far, on the core issues relating to the ethnic dispute.Not even the duration of such a dispensation had been spelt out.
In his view, the LTTE had walked out of the peace process because of the "links" that the international community had made between reconstruction funds and stress on principles of pluralism, demilitarisation and non-recruitment of child soldiers. "The Tigers saw Tokyo as a conspiracy to impose an agenda on it from the outside," Mr. Kadirgamar said.
"The LTTE did not want to offer any such commitment." Its claim to be the "sole representative" of the Tamil people in a democratic set-up was not acceptable, he added.
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