The Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) and the LTTE were holding crucial discussions in Kilinochchi yesterday and today even as there seemed to be no let up in the escalating violence between Government troops and the rebels in the North and East.
SLMM head Lars Johan Solvberg and spokesman Thorfinur Omarsson were scheduled to hold discussions with LTTE peace secretariat head S. Pulithevan and several other top rebel officials yesterday on various aspects relating to the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) and its monitoring.
`This is a routine meeting but the first top level visit for some time. Several issues are to be discussed,` Mr. Omarsson told the Daily Mirror. The SLMM delegation was scheduled to stay in Killinochchi overnight and return to Colombo later today. Last Thursday the SLMM met the Government peace secretariat and discussed the need for fresh approaches to generate greater confidence in the monitoring.
Both sides discussed the necessity to increase the number of international monitors within the SLMM to bring it back to its previous strength. It was suggested that the SLMM look into the reasons for the reduction of monitors in the field and endeavour to correct the situation with the LTTE declaration which had led to the departure of Nordic monitors from the European Union, being in itself a violation of the CFA.
The SLMM was also asked to look into the possibility of helping to ensure the resumption by the ICRC of its sea operations to bring humanitarian aid to the North.
These had been suspended last year on security grounds.
The Head of Mission was in Norway recently for meetings with representatives from the contributing countries which resulted in the strengthening of the SLMM cadre.
Speaking at the weekly defence briefing yesterday Government defence spokesman and Minister Keheliya Rambukwella ruled out reports of any fresh initiatives by the Norwegians to revive the stalled peace talks and insisted that the Government position on negotiations remained unchanged.
There were reports earlier this week indicating that the Government had invited Norway to resume peace talks but Minister Rambukwella insists there was no such fresh request as the Government always remained committed to resuming peace talks.
`The Government will continue with all measures in the best interestS of national security but at the same time we have said we have no problem with Norway continuing its peace efforts. There has not been any fresh request to Norway,` Minister RambukwellA said.
The defence spokesman also recalled that while Britain and other countries took stiff action in the best interest of national security to contain terrorism those governments did not draw criticism as much as the Sri Lankan government had to face.