B. Muralidhar Reddy

Colombo firm on lifting water blockade

COLOMBO: The military on Monday continued targeting the LTTE positions in and around a Tamil Tigers blocked waterway in the east ignoring its threat that any offensive would be deemed "full-scale war."

A military spokesman said the Government was determined to lift the blockade. On Sunday, Colombo rejected a deal mediated by Norway under which the Tigers had agreed to lift the blockade and fired artillery shells on LTTE positions.

Since the beginning of the "water war" on July 26 and the spread of the conflict to Trincomalee and Batticaloa districts, there have been claims and counter-claims of hundreds of killings and large-scale destruction. There is no independent conformation of the reports as the battle zone is inaccessible.

Subdued response

The LTTE response to the shelling is unexpectedly subdued. In a statement from Kilinochchi, the Tigers accused the Government of "scant regard" towards the Norwegian peace efforts and urged the world to take note of the "real motives" of the Rajapakse regime.

The Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process (SCOPP) put out an elaborate explanation on the circumstances under which the security forces targeted the LTTE positions when the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission delegation was at the site along with Tiger leaders.

It said the SLMM had entered the area "unannounced" . "[The] SCOPP informed the SLMM Headquarters in Colombo and sought the withdrawal of the SLMM from this operational area in order to prevent endangering the lives of SLMM Monitors." It said the area had been illegally and forcibly encroached upon by the LTTE and any discussions on the issue must ensure that the situation at the sluice-gate returns to its original status. .

The LTTE said in a press statement that its Political Head, SP Tamilselvan, told Norwegian Special Peace Envoy Jon Hanssen Bauer and Norwegian Ambassador Hans Brattskar that the LTTE leadership has decided to open the sluice gate, without any conditions.

The Tamil Tigers said Colombo's action by implication not only rejected the LTTE's good will gesture but also showed that it was paying scant regard to Norway's peace efforts.