Prove once more their callous disregard for the welfare of the Tamil civilians they claim to represent

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), known as the Tamil Tigers, on Sunday January 21, 2007, carried out a suicide attack against a cargo ship carrying wheat flour to feed 500,000 civilians in the Jaffna peninsula, by ramming an explosives-laden boat, while the ship was unloading the supplies outside Sri Lanka’s northern Kankesanthurai port.

Sri Lanka’s Ambassador in the US, Mr. Bernard Goonetilleke who commented on this incident said, “The Tamil Tigers are always making representations to the international community about the plight of Tamil civilians in the midst of a humanitarian situation, while doing everything within their means to create such a situation to achieve their political agenda.”

The ‘MV City of Liverpool,’ a private merchant vessel operated by foreign crew and chartered by a Sri Lankan company to carry essential supplies to civilians in the north, sustained hull damage after the attack, and with water leaking into the vessel, was towed into the port. One crew member was wounded in the attack.

Soldiers at Point Pedro east of Kankesanthurai port observed a flotilla of 20 Sea Tiger boats approaching the ‘MV City of Liverpool’ and opened fire using long range guns. Navy Dvora fast attack crafts blocked the path of the Sea Tiger crafts, which split into 2 clusters and moved toward the vicinity of where the vessel was berthed. During a nearly 45-minute confrontation, the navy destroyed two suicide boats. One Sea Tiger suicide boat, which managed to slip past the navy boats to blow up the cargo ship, was destroyed by navy sailors, who fired from on board the vessel. The resulting explosion damaged the vessel hull. Navy sailors were on the cargo vessel as part of the security measures at the harbor.

As precedence to this attack, in December 2006, the Tamil Tigers engaged in a blatant act of sea piracy. Off the Mullaitivu seas in the northeast, the Tamil Tigers boarded a disabled Jordanian vessel, ‘Fara III,’ transporting 14,000 MT of rice from India to South Africa. They took control of the vessel and seized the communications equipment on board before taking into custody the foreign crew members, who were subsequently released through strong pressure from the international community. The vessel continues to be held by the Tamil Tigers.

The humanitarian considerations of the civilians in the Jaffna peninsula have been of paramount concern to the government since it was forced to temporarily close the entry/exit checkpoint at Muhamalai on the A 9 Highway, which links the north to the south of the country. The remainder of the A 9 Highway which cuts across the Tamil Tiger-dominated Vanni, is open to the public. This entry-exit point was closed by the government armed forces on August 11, 2006, after the Tamil Tigers attacked the checkpoint, damaging infrastructure and killing several soldiers. The armed forces have said the move was necessary to stop the Tamil Tigers from transporting weapons and fighters into government-held areas, with the aim of seizing control of the peninsula. The government’s position is that this entry-exit point will be reopened if the Tamil Tigers provide credible assurance that they would not repeat such attacks against the Muhamalai checkpoint.

In this context, the government has taken a number of initiatives since August 2006, to address the humanitarian concerns of the civilians in the Jaffna peninsula. Having failed to obtain security guarantees from the Tamil Tigers for managed use of the A 9 Highway, or an alternative land route to reach the peninsula, the government has arranged to supply the needs of the civilians and uses the sea route to ensure that adequate supplies of food and other essential items are sent to the peninsula. In addition, the government has also arranged to import supplies to the peninsula from South India. The government’s efforts to obtain ICRC protection for the cargo vessels were denied by the Tamil Tigers and it is against this challenging background that the government continues to ship essential supplies to meet the needs of the civilians in the peninsula.

To downplay their terrorist activities, the Tamil Tigers have been using various ploys to hoodwink the international community with the intention of discrediting the government. Among these are the complaints of a humanitarian situation prevailing in the north and east, which the Tamil Tigers themselves have created.

The Tamil Tigers, through this latest suicide attack to wreck a humanitarian mission, proves once more its callous disregard for the welfare of the Tamil civilians in the Jaffna peninsula.

Embassy of Sri Lanka
Washington DC

22 January 2007


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