Archive for March 8th, 2008

On February 17, Kosovo broke away from Serbia and declared its independence. Not surprisingly it was instantly recognized as a state by the U.S., Germany, Britain and France. With 4203 square miles area, Kosovo may be a tiny territory but in the great game of oil politics it holds great importance which is in inverse proportion to its size.

Kosovo does not have oil but its location is strategic as the trans-Balkan pipeline – known as AMBO pipeline after its builder and operator the US-registered Albanian Macedonian Bulgarian Oil Corporation – will pass through it.

The pipeline will pump Caspian oil from the Bulgarian port of Burgas via Macedonia to the Albanian port of Vlora, for transport to European countries and the United States. Specifically, the 1.1 billion dollar AMBO pipeline will permit oil companies operating in the Caspian Sea to ship their oil to Rotterdam and the East Coast of the USA at substantially less cost than they are experiencing today.

When operational by 2011, the pipeline will become a part of the region’s critical East-West corridor infrastructure which includes highway, railway, gas and fiber optic telecommunications lines. This pipeline will bring oil directly to the European market by eliminating tanker traffic through the ecologically sensitive waters of the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas.

In 2000, the United States Government’s Trade and Development Agency financed a feasibility study of pipeline which updated and enlarged the project’s original feasibility study dating from early 1996. Brown & Root Energy Services, a wholly-owned British subsidiary of Halliburton completed the original feasibility study for this project.

The US Trade and Development Agency’s paper published May 2000, which assesses that the pipeline is a US strategic interest. According to the paper, the pipeline will provide oil and gas to the US market worth $600m a month, adding that the pipeline is necessary because the oil coming from the Caspian sea will quickly surpass the safe capacity of the Bosphorus.

The project is necessary, according to a paper, because the oil coming from the Caspian sea “will quickly surpass the safe capacity of the Bosphorus as a shipping lane”. The scheme, the agency notes, will “provide a consistent source of crude oil to American refineries”, “provide American companies with a key role in developing the vital east-west corridor”, “advance the privatisation aspirations of the US government in the region” and “facilitate rapid integration” of the Balkans “with western Europe”.

The pipeline itself, the agency says, has also been formally supported “since 1994”. The first feasibility study, backed by the US, was conducted in 1996.

In November 1998, Bill Richardson, the then US energy secretary, spelt out his policy on the extraction and transport of Caspian oil. “This is about America’s energy security,” he explained. “It’s also about preventing strategic inroads by those who don’t share our values. We’re trying to move these newly independent countries toward the west.

“We would like to see them reliant on western commercial and political interests rather than going another way. We’ve made a substantial political investment in the Caspian, and it’s very important to us that both the pipeline map and the politics come out right.”

Professor Michel Chossudovsky, author of America at War in Macedonia, provides a deep insight into the Albanian-Macedonian-Bulgarian-Oil Pipeline project:
“The US based AMBO pipeline consortium is directly linked to the seat of political and military power in the United States and Vice President Dick Cheney’s firm Halliburton Energy. The feasibility study for AMBO’s Trans-Balkan Oil Pipeline, conducted by the international engineering company of Brown & Root Ltd. [Halliburton’s British subsidiary] has determined that this pipeline will become a part of the region’s critical East-West corridor infrastructure which includes highway, railway, gas and fibre optic telecommunications lines.

“Coincidentally, White and Case LLT, the New York law firm that President William J. Clinton joined when he left the White House also has a stake in the AMBO pipeline deal.

“And upon completion of the feasibility study by Halliburton, a senior executive of Halliburton was appointed CEO of AMBO. Halliburton was also granted a contract to service US troops in the Balkans and build “Bondsteel” in Kosovo, which now constitutes “the largest American foreign military base constructed since Vietnam”.

“The AMBO Trans-Balkans pipeline project would link up with the pipeline corridors between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea basin, which lies at the hub of the World’s largest unexplored oil reserves. The militarization of these various corridors is an integral part of Washington’s design.

“The US policy of “protecting the pipeline routes” out of the Caspian Sea basin (and across the Balkans) was spelled out by Clinton’s Energy Secretary Bill Richardson barely a few months prior to the 1999 bombing of Yugoslavia: This is about America’s energy security. It’s also about preventing strategic inroads by those who don’t share our values. We’re trying to move these newly independent countries toward the west. We would like to see them reliant on western commercial and political interests rather than going another way. We’ve made a substantial political investment in the Caspian, and it’s very important to us that both the pipeline map and the politics come out right.

“In favour of the AMBO pipeline negotiations, the U.S. Government has been directly supportive through its Trade and Development Agency (TDA) and the South Balkan Development Initiative (SBDI). The TDI suggested the need for Albania, Macedonia, and Bulgaria to “use regional synergies to leverage new public and private capital [from U.S. companies]” while also asserting responsibility of the U.S. Government “for implementing the initiative.”

And the U.S. Government has fulfilled its role in promoting the AMBO project, granting several contracts to Halliburton for servicing U.S. troops in the Balkans, including a five year contract authorized in June of 2005 by the U.S. Army at a value of $1.25 billion, despite criminal allegations made against Halliburton that are currently being probed by the F.B.I., according to Craig A. Brannagan author of On the Political Executive: Public or Private?

This leaves little doubt that the war in the former Yugoslavia was fought solely in order to secure access to oil from new and biddable states in central Asia. It is obvious that the former Yugoslavia, especially Serbia, was a serious problem for the realization of the plan. The intervention in Kosovo and Metohija was carried out in order to please Albania, whose port of Vlore is the ultimate destination of the pipeline.

In 1998, fighting breaks out between Serbian forces and ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. President Milosevic sends in troops, and atrocities were committed. This opens the door for NATO’s Operation Allied Force, occupying Kosovo in 1999 and then handing it over to the UN, with a huge American presence in the area. UN resolution 1244 is drafted stipulating that Kosovo is Serbian land, and at the same time gives Kosovars governance autonomy.

June 1999, in the immediate aftermath of the bombing of Yugoslavia, US forces seized 1,000 acres of farmland in southeast Kosovo at Uresevic, near the Macedonian border, and began the construction of Camp Bondsteel which is the biggest construction project of a US military base since the war in Vietnam. Now, why would the United States build such a massive camp in Kosovo?

In evaluating Kosovo’s independence, it is also important to know that Kosovo is not gaining independence or even minimal self-government.

It will be run by an appointed High Representative and bodies appointed by the U.S., European Union and NATO. An old-style colonial viceroy and imperialist administrators will have control over foreign and domestic policy. It is similar to the absolute power held by L. Paul Bremer in the first two years of the U.S. occupation of Iraq. U.S. has merely consolidated its direct control of a totally dependent colony in the heart of the Balkans.

An International Civilian Representative (ICR) will be appointed by U.S. and E.U. officials to oversee Kosovo. This appointed official can overrule any measures, annul any laws and remove anyone from office in Kosovo. The ICR will have full and final control over the departments of Customs, Taxation, Treasury and Banking.

The E.U. will establish a European Security and Defense Policy Mission (ESDP) and NATO will establish an International Military Presence. Both these appointed bodies will have control over foreign policy, security, police, judiciary, all courts and prisons.

These bodies and the ICR will have final say over what crimes can be prosecuted and against whom; they can reverse or annul any decision made. The largest prison in Kosovo is at the U.S. base, Camp Bondsteel, where prisoners are held without charges, judicial overview or representation.

US has argued the case of Kosovo is unique and that separatists in other states in Europe and the Balkans will not receive aid and welcome from major powers. “It is incorrect to view this as a precedent and it doesn’t serve any purpose to view it as a precedent,” said Alejandro Wolff, US deputy permanent representative to the UN. He may be right because other separatists may not have any attraction for the oil giants.

However, the Kosovo independence bolsters hopes of militants in the Indian-controlled Kashmir to achieve the same status for the disputed territory. “The world community, the European Union in particular, should play a Kosovo-like role in getting the dispute resolved in Kashmir,” says Yasin Malik, chairman of pro-independence group Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front.

Although several countries have recognized Kosovo as a new state but India said it was studying the legal ramifications. India is wary of recognizing Kosovo as an independent state because of its potential implications for Kashmir, racked by a nearly two-decade freedom struggle against New Delhi’s occupation that has left more than 43,000 people dead.

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In actual fact what has to be considered by the experts before proposing such federal solutions is to see whether such mechanisms are suitable for the situation prevalent in Sri Lanka. What this country needs is an immediate solution to terrorism. Once terrorism is wiped out no such expert’s advice is needed for Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims to co-habit peacefully.

Some constitutional experts are of the opinion that federation envisages self rule combined with shared rule within one country, whilst ensuring the territorial integrity of a nation. Hence “federalists are the biggest enemies of secessionists as federal solutions undermine the whole moral justification for secession, by developing a constitutional arrangement that ensures that the rights of all communities are ensured.” Accordingly the constitutional experts challenge that there cannot be a single country where the powers that were devolved were used for successful secession.

A unitary State can be defined as one under a single central government whereas a federal State is a “central authority in which there are provincial or state authorities with powers of legislation and administration within the sphere allotted to them by the constitution.”

Security is considered as the main reason for forming a federation. States that have been formerly separate and sovereign may come together to form a powerful federation to face outside interferences. United States and Switzerland are examples for such federations. The thirteen original American States which formed the United States of America joined together to form the USA to stabilize their independence of England.

But on the other hand, if a sovereign unitary multi ethnic State functioning as one unit is forced to devolve powers to the periphery to accommodate an armed rebel unit that is seeking separation through armed rebellion that would enable such rebel units to secede easily “utilizing the powers of legislation and administration” allotted to them through the constitution.

Under such circumstances devolving powers to develop a constitutional arrangement or in other words a federal system would bring in negative results. Even though some separate sovereign States joining together to form a federation do so with the specific purpose of staying together,  rebel units seek such autonomy under a federal system with the specific purpose of seceding later utilizing the above mentioned legislative and administrative powers allotted to them. They utilize the federal constitution that offers them autonomy to prove their separate identity.

They use the idea of a federation to achieve their goals. Hence there is an obvious difference between the States uniting to form federations for security reasons and of once sovereign States carving out units to form federations under the misconceived idea of “federal solutions undermine the whole moral justification for cessation.”

In other words there are no standard solutions that would fit into any problem in any part of the world. Solutions should be ‘home made’ to fit into geographic, ethnic, religious and traditional beliefs of the effected parties. If not, the interested parties would keep on ‘producing’ new puppet States almost daily by devolving power on ethnicity or by using the latest R2P concept.

On the other hand those who propose devolution as the panacea for all ills easily condemn others who oppose the devolution as following the JVP’s line of thinking. Free and independent opinion expressed freely and independently may or may not tally with some other opinion but that does not mean following somebody’s line of thinking.  However it is a fact that federated States have declared independence unilaterally utilizing their allotted legislative and administrative powers. For example the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and Malaysia/Singapore can be considered as federal States that faced cessation under such circumstances.

Federal Republic of Yugoslavia – What was known as the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes came to be known as the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia under Marshall Tito. Tito succeeded in unifying the multi ethnic communities together. Soon after Tito’s death utilizing the newly gained greater freedom within the federated State, the republics declared unilateral independence. In fact the republics declared independence utilizing the autonomy received under federal system. The ethnic factor had also played a major role. Ethnically sensitive States under federal system tend to secede if and when a strong ruler disappears from the scene.

“Another weakness in a federation is the divided allegiance of the citizens”; such divided allegiance naturally leads to secession. Hence it is very difficult to imagine how the Centre can prevent a determined unit from seceding. The only way out is to use military means as “no constitutional provisions seem adequate to meet such a situation”. That is why it is said that the “comparative weakness of federalism is no accident; it is inherent in it. In the case of Yugoslavia ethnicity and the absence of a strong leader enabled the units to declare independence utilizing the legislative and administrative powers granted to them under federalism. However in the case of the Yugoslavian province of Kosovo the pattern had changed. The declaration of independence by Kosovo is a living example of the R2P concept at work (Responsibility to protect). Utilizing the R2P concept UN/NATO intervened and created a new country completely disregarding the UN Charter. In the case of Kosovo too some people attempt to hide the R2P concept by blaming the former President Milosevic for withdrawing Kosovo autonomy. No sane person would want to defend the ex-leader Milosevic but Milosevic had to use force mainly because of separatist attempts by the Ethnic Albanians. What happened after Milosevic was equally disgusting. Kosovo was under UN when it declared UDI. It was a case of violating the UN Charter using the R2P concept by the UN and the NATO forces. It is this very same R2P concept that was to be introduced to Sri Lanka as well. It is to further this concept that some attempt to show that “national sovereignty is not an absolute concept in international law anymore…” If that is the case first and foremost the relevant UN Charter should be annulled. It is very clear that all these attempts are aimed at creating puppet States under the guise of devolving power.

The USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) is another example. President Mikhail Gorbachev was determined to reform the soviet system while still maintaining federalism by restructuring and reshaping all aspects of Soviet life and economy under the slogans of “Perestroika” and “Glasnost”. Like what happened in Yugoslavia in the new systems under Perestroika and Glasnost the leader was forced to introduce reforms. Such reforms naturally enabled the federated units to seek independence. In Russia as well the allotted legislative and administrative powers to the far flung federated republics had enabled separation. Like having a weak leader under a federal system, the new reforms made Gorbachev helpless and finally Gorbachev himself disbanded the Communist Party which was the unifying engine of the Soviet Republics. Once the engine of unifying authority was gone the republics demanded to secede. This is another classic example of what happens in a federal system when a weak leader takes over in an ethnically sensitive federated country.

Another country that falls into this category is Malaysia. In 1948 Britain federated nine Malay States with Penang and Malacca to form the single colony of Federation of Malaya. In 1957 Federation of Malaya became independent. Later in 1963 Federation of Malaya combined with Singapore, Sarawak and Sabah to form the Federation of Malaysia. In 1959 under Lee Kuan Yew Singapore achieved internal self-government. In 1965 the autonomous Singapore withdrew from the Federation of Malaysia in protest of alleged discrimination against ethnic Chinese. In 1968 the federation lost Sabah as well to Philippines.

It is this status of self-government achieved under Lee Kuan Yew while still being a part of the federation that enabled Singapore to secede. It is the very same method of self-government the LTTE was clamouring for during the abandoned peace talks. In fact the LTTE submitted their proposals for self government under their ISGA (Interim Self Governing Authority) Had it been granted the North and East would have by now seceded from the rest of the country to create another country.

It is very clear that the very same legislative apparatuses that are available for the formation of federations can be utilized to secede from the very federation that offered them such status. In actual fact what has to be considered by the experts before proposing such federal solutions is to see whether such mechanisms are suitable for the situation prevalent in Sri Lanka. What this country needs is an immediate solution to terrorism. Once terrorism is wiped out no such experts advice is needed for Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims to co-habit peacefully.

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The Indian defence authorities have launched a full-scale investigation as to how their Coast Guard and the Navy were unable to track down the disabled trawler that drifted with 71 illegal migrants from Bangladesh and Myanmar in the Indian territorial waters, before being rescued by the Sri Lanka Navy.

A highly placed diplomatic official told the Daily Mirror that the Indian Navy had launched an investigation as to how they missed the trawler despite regular patrolling in their waters by the warship of the Indian Navy and other Coast Guard vessels further assisted by surveillance


It is learnt that the trawler with the 91 illegal migrants had been in the Indian waters near the Nicobar Islands, which is  under the Indian government, for over eleven days before drifting towards the Sri Lankan waters.

The area comes under the Chennai-based Maritime Rescue Coordinating Centre (MRCC), and according to International Maritime Law, the area has to be fully monitored round the clock. The system had been introduced worldwide to track down on arms smuggling and terrorist activities in the high seas. India has a second MRCC based in Mumbai as well.

However, the Indian patrolling vessels and the surveillance aircraft had been unable to detect this particular trawler though it was in their waters for more than a week, resulting twenty deaths of those illegal migrants.

This development has raised concerns in Sri Lanka as the Tigers could have been using this sea route to smuggle arms from East Asian countries including Thailand. The Sri Lanka Navy was able to completely stop arms smuggling from the east coast by destroying over ten LTTE arms-ships in the high seas.

The wooden hull vessel with 91 persons on board had left from Cox’s Bazaar located on the Myanmar and Bangladesh border on February 9. The passengers comprised 67 Myanmar nationals and 24 Bangladeshi nationals. They were heading for Thailand and Malaysia for employment.

The vessel had developed engine trouble on the 20th and begun to drift for 13 days until it was rescued by the Sri Lanka Navy some 150 nautical miles north-east of Mullaitivu early on March 3.

According to the passengers on the vessel, 20 of their colleagues (17 Myanmar nationals and three Bangladeshi persons) had died of starvation and dehydration. The bodies had been later thrown out of the trawler, according to the survivors.

After this incident was reported a relative of LTTE’s Sea Tiger Leader Soosai and another hardcore LTTE member had been arrested by the Tamil Nadu authorities for ordering Indian Rupees 4.2 million worth boat in the South Indian state of Kerala. The 70 feet long boat was almost finished by the boat yard when the Indian authorities took it into custody.

Indian intelligence sources have indicated that the boat almost finished in a Kerala boatyard near the Kochin harbour was ordered to be built to beef up the now tottering power of the Sea Tigers engaged in gun and drug running across the narrow Palk Strait between India and Sri Lanka.

Tamil Nadu police authorities have identified the two arrested men as Premraj alias Raj alias Dorai Kutty (48) a close relative of Soosai and Diesel Kumar alias Kumar one of the 17 terrorists who took cyanide after Sri Lanka Navy arrested them in 1987 for gun running near Jaffna. Diesel Kumar’s 12 colleagues died after taking cyanide pills but Kumar was one of the five who survived and was later released.

Sources said Soosai’s relative Premraj was arrested while he was visiting his family in the Tamil Nadu city of Trichy. Diesel Kumar was later traced to another Tamil Nadu city called Rameshwaram, where he took shelter in a refugee camp with many other Sri Lankan refugees who were housed there.

This shows that the LTTE were engaged in the boat building task via the Kerala boatyard after the Sea Tigers received extensive damage by the Sri Lanka Navy.

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Arrested police inspector and Ilankoowan reveal vital information

With the arrest of several top leaders and informants of the Liberation of Tigers Tamil Eelam (LTTE) from Colombo and its suburbs, the Colombo intelligence network of the Tigers has been exposed and curtailed.

Two main intelligence groups directly under the LTTE’s spy unit chief Pottu Amman’s purview has been paralyzed with the latest exposure by the coordinated intelligence units of the armed forces and police in Colombo.

The series of arrests of hardcore LTTE informants has now revealed that most of the past claymore attacks and LTTE activities had been controlled by one of the senior intelligence leaders of the Tigers Shanmuganathan Ravishankar alias Colonel Charles.The self styled Colonel Charles was killed while he was travelling in a van between Iluppaikkadavai and Pallaimadu on his way to inspect his regular forces in Mannar, early January this year.

The crackdown of the LTTE intelligence network in Colombo began with the arrest of Mallika, who was engaged in what is termed the world’s oldest profession. Her hometown is Hikkaduwa although she had been functioning in Colombo for a long time. On being arrested she had revealed some vital clues to the police, who had later made a series of arrests.

After interrogating Mallika, one ‘Indo Akka’ had been arrested, who is also engaged in the same profession. Indo Akka, who is a Tamil girl from Jaffna had arrived in Colombo from Jaffna six months ago and had rented a house in Grandpass. She had been sent to Colombo by Charles. Indo Akka had been able to coordinate several violent activities in Colombo with the support of Mallika who was having an affair with a Police Assistant attached to the Wattala police. Indo Akka’s main task was to collect information about VIP movements and other developments in Colombo. With the death of Charles Indo Akka faced a dilemma as no one was designated to handle her. Following her arrest, a special police team was able to arrest another mastermind called Nishanthan from Modera two weeks ago. Nishanthan has been sent by Pottu Amman two months ago and had obtained work at a hair dressing salon in Maligawatta with the help of Indo Akka.

Nishanthan’s task was to collect every detail of VIP movements including President Mahinda Rajapaksa and direct suicide cadres to those targets. Working towards that he was able to build up a friendship with a Muslim police officer attached to the Maligawatta police station called Inspector D.M. Ajmir. Inspector Ajmir had been a resident of Kalmunai and had served as a Reserve Sub Inspector before joining the regular Police.

One day, Nishanthan had introduced Pottu Amman to Ajmeer over the phone and offered some money to carry out some tasks. Ajmeer had been promised some Rs.200,000 to Rs.500,000 if he completes any task given by the LTTE.

His first task was to collect information about the movements of Western Province police intelligence director Senior Superintendent of Police Ravi Seneviratne. After gathering information all the details had been handed over to Nishanthan, who planted a powerful claymore mine near the Maligawatta flats facing Baron Jayatilake Mawatha, targetting the vehicle of the SSP travelling on June 8, 2007.

The bomb had been provided by 28-year-old Nadarajah Aravinda alias Vijayan, who blew himself up when his lodging was raided by the Police in Modera on February 29.

Vijayan, who is an expert at making bombs, had been in Colombo since last November to assemble bombs for such attacks. The Tigers had started using this tactic due to the difficulties faced in carrying bombs to Colombo due to tight road checks.

The plan was to activate the claymore targeting SSP Seneviratne using a remote control device, but the bomb did not explode due to some technical problem and the vehicle of the SSP had passed the scene without any problem. Immediately, Ajmeer had visited the place and had informed the police that he had found a claymore mine. Later he entered in the police log that the recovery was made following information given by one of his private informants. He was rewarded with Rs.300,000 for the recovery(Rs.100,000 for him and Rs.200,000 for his informant) by the Police Department. However Ajmeer had given only Rs. 25,000 to Nishanthan. The balance money was paid to a finance company for his leased vehicle.

After failing this first task, Ajmeer was tasked to monitor movements and meetings of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. According to Ajmeer, who is now under Police custody, the plan was to send a suicide cadre disguised as a policeman to a meeting that the President would attend. But the plan failed and Pottu Amman had stopped giving tasks to Ajmeer after that. However Ajmeer continued to work with Nishanthan and provided information to him until he was arrested by a special police team, who later arrested Nishanthan as well.

Meanwhile the arrest of Muththusami Ilankoowan alias Sami at Pettah, Colombo had sent shockwaves through some top Police officers, politicians and several businessmen in Colombo.

Ilankoowan had reportedly paid millions of rupees to some police officers and politicians, while being one of the main LTTE agents in Colombo. It was revealed that soon after the arrest these politicians and police officers had tried to get Ilankoowan released, but due to the presence of clear evidence on his close links with the LTTE such pressure to get him released had stopped. Some high-ranking police officers had even tried to remove policemen involved in the investigations.During interrogation, Ilankoowan had told the Police that he had visited the Colombo Crime Division (CCD) at least six times to meet Charles Gnanakone, who was arrested for questioning  in connection with the assassination of late Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar.

Ilankoowan had visited the CCD with the support of several senior police officers, it had been revealed.

The arrest of Ilankoowan also led to a series of more arrests not only in Colombo but in Jaffna as well. On Wednesday night, Benedict Julian alias ‘Koti Juli’ – a top LTTE leader had been arrested.

Earlier, two girls including one from Kohuwala who had undergone training to carry out LTTE activities in Colombo were arrested following information revealed by Ilankoowan.

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According to the latest reports received by us, TNA MP Sivanesan has been traveling in and out of Mallavi LTTE controlled area undisturbed until now to attend Parliamentary sessions in Colombo since his election as an MP.

He had crossed Omanthai SLA checkpoint at around 12.30pm as usual yesterday after attending Parliament the day-before-yesterday. The first notice of the attack had come 30 minutes to 1 hour later. The message had indicated Sivanesan’s driver had been killed in a blast and that Sivanesan was also critically wounded.

The LTTE blamed the attack on a ‘Deep Penetration Unit’ of the Army. But they had also claimed that a tractor transporting civilians was also targeted four days ago by the same unit in the same area.
The SLA has denied both these accusations.

The attack took place on the Mankulam-Mallavi road deep inside LTTE area. If the LRRP has that reach, then it is monumental, especially given the fact that over ten to fifteen thousand LTTE civilian force members are deployed in these areas. It is also disturbing, from an LTTE point of view, if two attacks had occurred in the same area in one week.

The important issues here is why SLA suddenly decided to assassinate Sivanesan who has been traveling in and out of Mallavi for each session of Parliament through SLA checkpoints? Why also would the LTTE allow its MP to regularly travel to Mallavi if the area was prone to regular LRRP infiltration and attack?


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Two eminent lawyers  S.L.Gunasekara and Gomin Dayasiri have come forward to appear on behalf of the Sri Lanka Army at the public inquiry on the killing of 17 aid workers of the French NGO ‘Action Against Hunger’ before the  Commission Investigating Serious Violations of Human Rights (COI), a source of the Commission said yesterday.

Last Monday the CoI began the public inquiry into the killing of 17 aid workers in Muttur on August 26, 2006 that shocked the world. Following an outcry from human rights groups President Mahinda Rajapaksa was compelled to appoint the CoI to investigate the incident together with 14 other human rights violations of serious nature, the source added.

“The first sessions of the Commission on Monday was observed by Chairman of the International Independent Group of Eminent Persons (IIGEP), former Chief Justice of India, P.N.Bhagawathi,” the source said.

The appearance of two senior lawyers on behalf of the Army is unique as witnesses were not represented by legal counsels earlier at the CoI. A Pradeshiya Sabha member in Muttur gave evidence at the first session on Monday while two other witnesses are lined up to give evidence on Monday and Tuesday, he said.

Commenting on the difficulties faced by the CoI the source said the Commission is still not in a position to act according to the amendments passed recently in Parliament. One of the main changes was to reduce the quorum from present eight to five. Last Tuesday the CoI did not hold their session as one member was not present. “The CoI cannot sit even if one member is not present. Though amendments were passed in Parliament the Speaker has not signed the Bill up to now,” he said.

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