LTTE PROVED RESPONSIBLE FOR KILLING OF INDIAN FISHERMEN
IN INDIAN WATERS; GETS CAUGHT IN ITS DEVIOUS
PLOY TO IMPLICATE SRI LANKA NAVY
In a world that is wise to the malevolent
ploys of terrorist groups, there are still organizations that
appear to get away with such duplicity, at least for a while,
until the truth catches up with them.
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE),
a terrorist group in Sri Lanka engaged in an armed conflict with
the government to establish a mono-ethnic separate state for the
Tamils in north and the east of the country, was recently caught
red-handed while in the midst of a ruse to achieve its political
objectives by creating hostility in South India toward Sri Lanka.
On March 29, 2007, five Indian fishermen were
killed in Indian territorial waters. The Sri Lanka Navy rejected
an allegation by some foreign media, that the Navy killed these
fishermen. Sri Lanka Navy headquarters issued a statement that
the fleet units of Sri Lanka Navy do not fire at fishermen and
that instructions had been issued to those units to abide by the
Standing Operational Procedures, when dealing with fishermen.
The Sri Lanka Navy stated that it has always maintained a traditional
relationship with the Indian Navy and the Indian Coast Guard.
Furthermore, the Sri Lanka Navy has, on several occasions, assisted
Indian fishermen in distress in Sri Lankan waters. Incidents in
the recent past, such as assistance to the Indian trawler RMS
94 on October 25, 2006 off Karainagar and assistance to an Indian
fishing boat in distress off Thondimannnar, on 24th November 2006,
bear testimony to such conduct.
However, by April 2, 2007, the Chief of the Indian
Naval Staff, Admiral Sureesh Mehta had not ruled out LTTE involvement
in the deaths of the Indian fishermen. Basing his views on assurances
given by the Sri Lankan Naval chief, Admiral Mehta acknowledged
that purpose of the shooting could have been to create a rift
between India and Sri Lanka. Admiral Mehta told newsmen, “I
had personally spoken to the Chief of the Sri Lankan Navy five
days back and he assured me that his men had no intention of harassing
fishermen in this manner. The Sri Lankan Navy has also issued
strict instructions asking its personnel not to open fire on Indian
fishermen, who had strayed into Lankan waters."
The Sri Lanka Ministry of Foreign Affairs said
in a statement, “The Government of Sri Lanka also wishes
to point out that as a responsible naval force of a friendly country,
the Sri Lanka Navy does not under any circumstances enter into
Indian territorial waters.” It added, “The Government
of Sri Lanka is of the view that any complicity regarding the
alleged incident must be attributed solely to the LTTE, who have
resorted to such provocations in the past as well, in attempts
to create strains in the bilateral relationship between India
and Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka remains committed to continuing its engagement
with the Indian side to work out a coordinated mechanism between
the two Navies, to leave no grounds for any such allegations in
On March 10, 2007, there was an incident of firing
on Indian fishermen in the general area South West of Kachchativu
island. Once more, allegations of responsibility were directed
at the Sri Lanka Navy. Following investigation into the incident,
it was found that no vessel of the Sri Lanka Navy had operated
in the vicinity of Kachchativu island, at the time of the incident.
Stemming from this situation, the Government
of Sri Lanka proposed to the Indian authorities its willingness
to work out an arrangement with India to jointly monitor the International
Maritime Boundary Line on either side and to share information
regarding the movement of Indian fishermen. Sri Lanka also indicated
its willingness to send a team to India to cooperate in the investigations
of the killings.
Stepped-up attacks on Indian fishermen came at
a time when Indian and Tamil Nadu authorities were trying to curb
the arms smuggling network of the LTTE. The recent numerous arrests
of operatives and seizures of materials for manufacturing bombs
and other improvised explosive devices (IEDs) meant for the Tamil
Tigers, coupled with the mid-sea hijacking of a Jordanian commercial
vessel in December 2006, indicate that the LTTE has stepped up
its activity in the territorial waters of India and Sri Lanka.
On April 11, 2007, the Indian coastguard arrested
six Sri Lankan Tamils, who had been engaged in transferring arms
and ammunition from their vessel ‘Maria’ to smaller
boats in the high seas off the Tuticorin coast. A mechanical snag
in ‘Maria’ had caused them to drift into Indian waters.
When some Indian fishermen in two fishing boats had come to their
assistance, they had hurriedly jettisoned their cargo into the
sea. Upon interrogation, the Tamil Nadu police discovered these
six people were members of a special Sea Tiger squad engaged in
ferrying arms, ammunition and equipment from an LTTE ship anchored
in the high seas. Director General of Police in Tamil Nadu, Mr.
D. Mukherjee said in an official release that upon interrogation,
the suspects had admitted that another group of Sea Tigers in
the same vessel ‘Maria’ had opened fire on a group
of eight Indian fishermen, killing five, on March 29. Mr. Mukherjee
said Sea Tigers had also kidnapped 12 Indian fishermen on March
4, 2007. These fishermen had been abducted by the Sea Tigers with
their 60 meter fishing vessel ‘Sri Krishna,’ which
is now in the hands of the Sea Tigers. The suspects have told
the Indian interrogators that the abducted Indian fishermen had
been moved to LTTE-dominated areas in the Wanni.
This is not the first time that the LTTE has
committed a crime and blamed it on the Sri Lanka security forces,
with the objective of attaining their political goals. They have,
in the past, used civilians as human shields in attacks against
the security forces and then accuse the forces of killing civilians
in retaliatory firing.
Civilians and religious leaders in the north
and the east are increasingly accusing the LTTE of using places
of worship for terrorist activity. On April 29, 2007, Five LTTE
cadres including a Tiger leader and his deputy were killed by
the Navy inside the Amman Puliyankadal Kovil in Suruvil Vealani
in the Kayts Islands. He had been functioning as leader of the
Jaffna islands. The Navy also seized a large haul of arms and
ammunition after repulsing a terrorist attack.
The latest discovery by a joint navy and police
search at the Amman Hindu Kovil in Velanithurai, Kayts, on May
2, 2007, revealed explosives carefully concealed for the LTTE
above the statues of Hindu Gods. The LTTE also resorts to revenge
attacks against religious leaders who have disregarded or acted
independently of Tamil Tiger ideology. The use of places of worship
as a cover for terrorism shows the LTTE's total disregard for
the sanctity of religion.
In February 2007, on an information received
from the Bishop of Jaffna about a suspicious bag inside St. Mary's
church, troops recovered 7 hand grenades, 3 cyanide capsules,
a communication set and some other items inside the church.
The Hindu priest, Selliah Parameshwaram Gurukkal
who blessed President Mahinda Rajapaksa during his visit to Vakarai
was shot dead by the LTTE in Batticaloa on February 7, 2007.
The International Religious Freedom Report 2004,
released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor of
the US Department of State says, “The LTTE has been accused
in the past of using church and temple compounds, where civilians
are instructed by the Government to congregate in the event of
hostilities, as shields for the storage of munitions.”
Furthermore, unsolved crimes like the 17 aid
workers killed in Muttur in August 2006, and various disappearances
that have taken place in the north and the east, may also end
up as crimes committed by the LTTE, with the intention of bringing
discredit to Sri Lanka and to increase pressure on the government
from the international community.
Embassy of Sri Lanka
04 May 2007