Saturday, January 5, 2008

Sri Lanka on high alert across the island

Sri Lanka on Thursday placed its security forces on high alert across the island following its decision to scrap the ceasefire agreement signed by the predecessor Ranil Wickremesinghe government with the LTTE in February 2002. The government justified its decision to dump the peace pact saying that the Tamil Tigers continued
to indulge in ‘senseless violence’ and violated the ceasefire several times with impunity. Peace broker Norway, however, has regretted the decision and warned that it could cause worsening of the war situation in the country.

"The Army, Navy and Air force have been put on the alert after the decision to abrogate the ceasefire agreement. Even earlier, we have been on the vigil as the Tigers stepped up attacks," military spokesman Udaya Nanayakkara said. The Naval spokesman D.K.P. Dasanayake said the navy was in a state of preparedness "to take up any challenge." The Island police spokesman N.K. Ellangakoon said the law and order machinery had been beefed up.

Informed sources said the government was concerned, mostly, about the possibility of the Tigers unleashing suicide strikes in Colombo and other Sinhala-dominated civilian areas, choosing soft targets at will. It is believed that there are several ‘sleeping’ Black Tigers in the capital awaiting the signal from their headquarters in Killinochchi up north. The government announced the abrogation of the ceasefire agreement within hours after a suspected LTTE claymore mine, blasted by
remote control, killed four persons in a high-security area of Colombo.

While most believe that the government chose to announce abrogation of ceasefire out of frustration at the increased suicide attacks on civilian and military targets, some also feel that the announcement reflected the new sense of emboldened confidence after the military made some significant gains. Justifying the decision to scrap the ceasefire pact, minister Kehellya Rambukwella said, "The ceasefire must have been violated by the LTTE more than 10,000 times." He also said the Cabinet
had decided to withdraw from the ceasefire pact "as we found it futile continuing with it and there is no indication that the LTTE is willing to enter the peace path."

After that, Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayaka performed the formal duty of notifying the Norwegian facilitators about the abrogation of the ceasefire agreement. According to the pact, either party should give two weeks notice to the Norwegian facilitators before withdrawing from the ceasefire. The ceasefire was signed by Prime Minister Wickremesinghe and Tiger chief Velupillai Prabhakaran. The peace process was revived after President Mahinda Rajapaksa came to power in 2005 but the Tigers "continued their terror acts showing no commitment to the ceasefire," Mr. Rambukwella added. Expressing regret that the government had "taken such a serious step", the Norwegian environment and international development minister Erik Solheim, said, "This comes on top of the increasingly frequent acts of violence perpetrated by both parties."

Asian Age