The military rejected the Scandinavian truce monitors` claim that about 1,500 civilians were among about 4,000 people killed due to the conflict during the past 15 months.
An official said that a statement issued by truce monitoring mission, to coincide with the 5th anniversary of the Ceasefire Agreement, exaggerated the civilian deaths. The military said that it logged 694 civilian deaths during the past 15 months. According a military spokesman the victims were among 960 civilians killed since the Oslo-arranged Cease Fire Agreement (CFA) came into operation in February 2002.
Although the Defence Ministry rejected the truce monitors` assessment, the SCOPP (Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process) has accepted the disputed figures. The Island learns that the international community is guided by the monitoring mission`s appraisal of the CFA. The military acknowledges that the government`s failure to challenge the truce monitors over the unfavourable report is damaging, particularly in the backdrop of growing international scrutiny of human rights.
A SCOPP spokesperson declined to comment on the truce monitors` report. `A breakdown could not be provided without SCOPP Secretary General`s authorization,` the spokesperson said.
Quoting the monitoring mission, the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) Country Team placed the number of civilian deaths at 151 and 224 wounded (January this year), 62 killed and 61 wounded (February this year).
The Norwegian-led monitoring mission declined to provide a breakdown of the number of persons killed during the past 15 months. The mission said that revelation of such information might not be favourable to its role in Sri Lanka.
The mission claimed that nearly 4,000 people lost their lives in incidents connected to the ethnic conflict during the past 15 months in contrast to the three previous years when less than 130 deaths relating to the conflict were reported.
The statement implied that there has been a sharp escalation of violence since November 2005. Government sources said this was a part of an ongoing campaign to blame the Rajapakse administration for intensified violence.
The mission said that they placed the number of deaths at 4,000 on the basis of daily reports from truce monitors where every single case in accordance to the conflict has been recorded. `Therefore, the SLMM can assure that the figure is very close to being accurate,` its spokesperson said adding that over 1,500 civilians were among the 4,000 people killed. The mission implied that the remaining were combatants.
The military accused the monitoring mission of conveniently forgetting the cause for the escalation of violence.
The attempt on Army Chief Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka`s life April last year followed by a massive strike on the army`s Jaffna frontline in the second week of August against the backdrop of battles at Mavilaru and Trincomalee caused sizeable losses to both parties, a senior military official said. He pointed out that among the 130 people killed before the change of government was Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar. The LTTE also made an attempt on EPDP leader Minister Douglas Devananda`s life, he added.
According to records forwarded by the SLMM to the Government Peace Secretariat, the LTTE had violated the CFA on 3273 occasions from February 2002 to October 2005 against 148 violations by security forces during the same period. By December 31, 2006, the SLMM had ruled 3827 violations against the LTTE and 348 by security forces. The military said that the SLMM also forget that it confirmed 1744 cases of child recruitment, 128 cases of abduction of children, 25 cases of forced recruitment of adults and 579 cases of abduction of adults during the relatively peaceful period.