SLA-TNA garrison talks fail to reach consensus

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 09 April 2003, 19:00 GMT]
The Tamil National Alliance’s talks with the defense ministry officials at the Jaffna district secretariat Wednesday afternoon failed to arrive at a consensus on the question of finding an alternative site for the SLA’s Jaffna town brigade headquarters, and the TNA is to hold further discussions with the Prime Minister Thursday morning in Colombo, TNA parliamentary group leader, Mr.R.Sampanthan, told TamilNet on his return to Colombo Wednesday.

The SLA’s earlier plan to locate its Jaffna brigade headquarters in municipal lands drew widespread criticism from the civil society in Jaffna, the TNA and the LTTE, and the plan was later abandoned at the intervention of the Prime Minister, who at a meeting with the TNA parliamentarians had agreed that talks be held between the TNA and the SLA on finding an alternative site.

According to this decision, a TNA parliamentary group arrived at Palaly by air Wednesday morning and attended a conference at the Palaly main military base with the SLA’s Jaffna commander, Major General Sarath Fonseka. Later, they visited the Jaffna town SLA brigade headquarters. Thereafter, the TNA parliamentary group accompanied by the government defence team visited Kallundai veli, Kaakaithivu and Cey-nor factory premises, and explored the possibilities of shifting the brigade headquarters to one of these sites.

Both teams also visited the Jaffna municipal land, which had been earlier selected by the SLA to establish its new brigade headquarters.

Heated arguments ensued between the SLA area commander and the TNA parliamentary group over the question of shifting the brigade headquarters to Kaakaithivu when they were on their fact-finding tour to several alternative sites. SLA officials argued they could not locate a brigade headquarters in a place where no basic facilities were available. The SLA team also rejected the idea of moving the brigade headquarters to Kallundai Veli, TNA sources said.

Thereafter, the Defence Ministry officials and TNA parliamentarians met at the Jaffna district secretariat with the Government Agent, Mr.S.Pathmanathan, in the chair. The defence team was led by the Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Defence, Mr.Karaliyadde, and included the Chief of Staff, Major General Lohan Gunawardene, SLA Jaffna area commander, Major General Sarath Fonseka, Jaffna town SLA commander, Brigadier Silva, the sources said

The TNA parliamentary group comprised Messrs. R.Sampanthan, Mavai Senathirajah, A.Vinayagamoorthy, G.G.Gajendrakumar, N.Raviraj, K.Thurairetnasingham, M.K.Sivajilingam and K.Thurairetnasingham. Eelam Peoples Democratic Party parliamentarian Mr.Mathanarajah also participated in the discussion.

During the discussion Mr.Sampanthan said shifting a SLA camp from one populated area to another populated area couldn't be allowed under any circumstances. The TNA would continue its objection forshifting the Jaffna brigade to residential areas in the town. Mr.Sampanthan argued that the SLA should reduce its strength in residential areas.

"The movement of government troops in residential areas should be reduced in order to assist in taking forward the peace process," he said.

Mr. Sampanthan said that he stressed at the conference that the success of the peace talks solely depended on the successful resettlement of displaced in their own lands. The SLA should co-operate with the government to make the peace process a success and avoid setting up new camps in residential areas. Normalcy should return to the Northeast. Mr.Sampanthan said he reminded the government officials that the troops manning the camps in Tamil areas come from the major community in the South and are not people from the area.

The defence team wanted the Old Park site in the Jaffna town for its new SLA brigade headquarters instead of municipal lands, and insisted that otherwise they would stay in the present site, the sources said.

No consensus was reached and the TNA MPs and Defence Ministry officials left to Colombo by air Wednesday evening, sources said

 

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