The Web Sri Lanka In Focus

Saturday, 1 March 2008

Sri Lanka Army chief to pay six-day visit to India

Sri Lanka's army chief Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka, who has vowed to crush the Tamil Tigers, will pay a six-day visit to India from Sunday to deepen military cooperation between the two countries.

Details of Fonseka's programme have not been divulged, apparently over security considerations. The defence ministry has only said that he will briefly interact with the Indian Army here Tuesday.

He will also lay a wreath at the memorial to the Unknown Soldier at India Gate, a World War I monument, after which he will be presented a guard of honour at the defence ministry headquarters at South Block.

Fonseka, along with Defence Secretary Gothabaya Rajapaksa, leads a no-holds-barred military campaign against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and has vowed to defeat the rebels at the earliest.

He is one of Sri Lanka's most protected figures, more so after the LTTE came close to assassinating him in April last year. He survived but had to spend many months in hospital, in Sri Lanka and abroad, before resuming work.

Military officials here told IANS ahead of Fonseka's visit that they did not want the Sri Lanka Army to slacken its drive against the LTTE, which is outlawed in India.

"India is closely engaged with Sri Lanka on two fronts," one official said. "It wants to ensure that the Sri Lanka Army maintains its upper hand over the LTTE. At the same time, Sri Lanka needs to come out with a devolution package that is acceptable to the minorities.

"India does not want to see the Sri Lanka Army losing its grip over the rebels. At the same time, there is no question of Indian military intervention beyond providing non-lethal hardware," the official added.

Towards this end, the official pointed out, the Indian and Sri Lankan navies had been conducting coordinated patrols in the narrow sea dividing the two countries. New Delhi also shares intelligence on LTTE activities with Colombo.

Thousands have been killed in fighting between the LTTE and the military in recent years.

As fighting has escalated, the Indian Air Force (IAF) has increased its surveillance over south India and is planning to conduct a series of exercises in the region this year.

Fonseka is sure to discuss military cooperation with India, which has become a touchy issue in bilateral relations.

Sri Lanka has been increasing looking at China and Pakistan for weapons supplies. Although India supplies only non-lethal military items to Sri Lanka, it provides training to Sri Lankan soldiers.

Sri Lankan leaders say they keep India informed about arms purchases from other countries.


India Coast guard arrests 21 Sri Lankan fishermen

Coast guard officials today arrested 21 Sri Lankan fishermen who had strayed into India's territorial waters.

The fishermen were taken into custody by the officials off the coast of southern Karaikal in Pondicherry in Tamil Nadu.

They were later taken to Chennai where they were handed over to the local police for further interrogation.

The Sri Lankan authorities however, claimed that all those arrested were innocent and had strayed into Indian waters by mistake.

"Altogether 21 people, all innocent fishermen from Sri Lanka. They don't know what they were doing, where they were going, so we are now enquiring where they were headed," said Thassin, an official from Sri Lankan Embassy.

The police also took into custody four fishing trawlers belonging to the fishermen.

Indian and Sri Lankan fishermen often cross over into each other's territorial waters by mistake and get caught.


Colombo urges U.K. to ban LTTE “front” organisations

Hasan Suroor

LONDON: Sri Lankan authorities here have urged the British government to ban fund-raising activities of what they described as “LTTE’s front organisations” alleging that the money collected by these groups “ostensibly” for charitable purposes went into the “coffers” of Tamil Tigers.

They said that although LTTE was banned in Britain a number of organisations claiming to be “charities” were working for it.

“These funds directly go to the coffers of the insurgent group to wage war with the Sri Lankan government and spread violence among civilian populations,” a spokesman of Sri Lankan High Commission said.

The call came ahead of a cultural show by the Tamil Youth Organisation (TYO) here on Saturday to raise funds for an educational project in Visvamadu in Sri Lanka. Sri Lankan officials called the project an extension of the LTTE.

“We have complained to the British police that Visvamadu is in the Wanni territory, where the power of the LTTE is wielded and these funds are meant for its campaign,” the spokesman said.

The TYO however denies any links with LTTE and says that it is a “charity with the interests of Tamil youth at heart”.
Primary objective

“Our primary objective is to unite Tamil Youths nationwide by acting as the central communication link and providing an opportunity for action to serve the Tamil community, both domestically and abroad.

“Such endeavours will include coordinating development projects to improve the Tamil Youth in our homeland devastated by the civil war,” it says on its website.

Source: Hindu