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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2554

Norway arming and financing LTTE through Eriteria, Prabhakaran offered asylum in Eriteria

Jeyaraj Fernandopulle : "It is now believed Norway sends the arms and ammunition to Eriteria for use by the government there but these are in reality loaded in Eriteria into the LTTE ships to be taken to Vanni (the Tigers' base)." Jeyaraj Fernandopulle : "It is now believed Norway sends the arms and ammunition to Eriteria for use by the government there but these are in reality loaded in Eriteria into the LTTE ships to be taken to Vanni (the Tigers' base)." Colombo, 16 September, (Asiantribune.com): Arms and Funds to the LTTE from Norway through Eriteria? It is no longer a conjecture. A top Sri Lankan government minister confirmed this even as the US State Department has said that Eriteria is supporting directly Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

In a wide ranging interview to Asian Tribune, Jeyaraj Fernandopulle, Sri Lanka’s Minister of Highways & Road Development, Chief Government Whip and the Treasurer of the ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party, disclosed that Norway was providing arms and money to LTTE through Eritrea. He was short on details but was categorical in his assertion.

He said, 'It is now believed Norway sends the arms and ammunition to Eriteria for use by the government there but these are in reality loaded in Eriteria into the LTTE ships to be taken to Vanni (the Tigers' base)'.

The Lanka Minister said Colombo is at 'a loss' to know why a section of the government leaders in Norway are arming and 'assisting LTTE against our government'.

Jeyaraj Fernandopulle, who also spoke on Rajapakse government plans for developing the 'liberated' East at a cost of $ 60 million, indicated that Tigers' chief Prabhakaran and his men could be getting asylum in the trouble torn Eriteria.

"We have also learnt", the Minister said, "that in case Prabhakaran and his colleagues are to flee the country, Norway has arranged Eritrea to give asylum, safety and security to Prabhakaran and his men".

The Minister, who is heading an inter-ministerial committee on infrastructure development of the East, denied as baseless rumors the talk about creation of an all Sinhala district by dividing sections of Mullaithievu and Trincomalee districts.

Terming the allegation as a loose talk, Jeyaraj Fernandopulle said only politically bankrupt politicians indulge in such false allegations against the Government to drive a wedge between the Government and the Tamils and Tamil speaking people living in Mullaithievu and Trincomalee. "We don't need to do any such thing (creation of Sinhala district) , as we always say that the Sri Lanka belongs not only to the Sinhalese but also to Tamils and the Tamil speaking people of this country".

Excerpts from the interview

Asian Tribune : Give us details regarding the government's development proposals of the East?

Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle: We have started the Eastern Province development work. The development in the East has been divided into two categories. 1. Infrastructure Development. 2. Administrative Development.

Two ministers are appointed to head these two programs, under the leadership of President Mahinda Rajapakse.

I head the infrastructure development. My colleague, Karu Jayasuriya, the Minister of Public Administration and Home Affairs, is in charge of the Administrative development. His work involves putting in place machinery responsive to the people's needs besides setting up new police stations to maintain law and order in the area. Our two panels meet regularly to prepare the blue print and implement it. Secretaries of all ministries concerned attend these meetings and do the follow up action.

Abdul Risath Bathiyutheen, Minister of Resettlement and Disaster Relief Services helps both the development committees.

We are planning to develop in the East, roads, electricity, water supply, reconstructing schools, technical education institutions for the youths of the East, and hospitals.

Before the conflict, east was the biggest place in the country with large amounts of livestock. Now we are planning to develop livestock in the east with special emphasis on poultry and cattle breeding. Also we plan to lay great emphasis on the paddy cultivation, as East was once the granary of the country. We also decided to encourage cadju cultivation and Palmarah growing. Fishing too will get the maximum encouragement.

The three districts in the East coming under this development programs are Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Ampara.

On the 22nd of this month Government is planning to give a presentation of the development programs envisaged and hold a workshop in BIMCH in Colombo.

We have invited all the members of Parliament including the Tamil National Alliance members of Parliament. Hope that they will come and assist the government to identify the development projects urgently required in the East for the welfare of the people in the East.

You know a couple of weeks ago TNA Parliamentary group leader R.Sampanthan criticized that the government has not invited the TNA MPs for these discussions and seminars regarding the development of the east.

He also alleged that this government has no mandate to serve the eastern province.

The TNA leader must understand that Mahinda Rajapakse is the President of the whole of Sri Lanka including to Velupillai Prabakaran as he is still a Sri Lankan. The Vanni or whatever area claimed to be under the control of Prabakaran is being fed by the Government led by Mahinda Rajapakse. The school education to the children in those areas is provided by this government and health services to our people in those areas are served by the Sri Lanka Government.

Mahinda Rajapakse and the Government led by him are constitutionally empowered to serve the people of the East as well as the people living in the entire island including Prabhakaran and others.

Sampanthan should clearly understand that there is no such thing as parts of the country under somebody with constitutional authority and something else under an extra- legal authority.

Therefore, I invite all MPs including Sampanthan and his colleagues to participate in the forthcoming development conference to be held in BIMCH, Colombo on the 22nd of this month and contribute to develop the East.

Whatever is said and done, the people living in the East are Sri Lankans. They may be Tamils, Muslims or Sinhalese. All are Sri Lankan citizens. We regard all of them as people of Sri Lankan; it is the duty of this government to serve them all and ensure their progress and prosperity.

Asian Tribune: What is the amount of money the government has earmark for these development activities?

Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle: According to the present estimates Government has planned to invest nearly US$60 million. We are planning to bring in a new lease of live to those people who have been liberated from the iron clutches of the LTTE, so that they too would enjoy all the benefits at present enjoyed by the people in the South without any discrimination.

Asian Tribune : $ 60 million is a big money. From where do you intend to raise this much fund?

Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle: We have received pledges from various governments and banks. Even we are planning to divert funds lying idle in the budget allocations under different heads for the east. In fact we will be able to know the exact financial position soon within a weeks, may be by 22 of this month. Presidential Secretariat is working on this. President's advisor Basil Rajapakse is working out the details with the relevant ministries and with various foreign missions.

Asian Tribune: There are reports in circulation that the Rajapakse Government is trying to create a new Sinhalese district in the east by dividing sections of Mullaithievu and Trincomalee districts. Is it true? What is your take?

Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle: It is a rumour. A loose talk by the politically bankrupt politicians. This is a false allegation made against the Government to drive a wedge between the Government and the Tamils and Tamil speaking people living in Mullaithievu and Trincomalee. We don't need to do any such thing (creation of Sinha district), as we always say that the Sri Lanka belongs not only to the Sinhalese, but also to Tamils and the Tamil speaking people of this country.

Asian Tribune: There is another allegation that Government is trying to allocate lands belonging to Tamils and Muslims in the East to Sinhalese people who have settled there. Your comment!

Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle:This is another baseless allegation. Now that the government has liberated the east, therefore some narrow minded politicians have come up with such rumors hoping that they might get the support of the Tamils and Muslims by fabricating such cock and bull stories. The people in the East are very clever and they will not be deceived by such allegations.

Asian Tribune: Government keeps saying that it will hold the election in the East? When can we expect the elections? What is the official position? Have you thought of poll dates already?

Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle : Now the ball is in the Election Commissioners' court. For those local bodies the elections were earlier postponed, it is now in the hands of the Election Commissioner to come up with the new dates to hold election. Once the local body's elections in the East are held successfully we will go for the Provincial Council elections.

My invitations go to all the political parties including LTTE, Karuna Group, EPDP, PLOTE, EPRLF and TULF. They all should come forward to participate in the provincial council election.

Asian Tribune: What about TNA? Are you not inviting them to stand for the elections? Any special reasons to omit them from your invitation to contest elections?

Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle: TNA says that they are part and parcel of the LTTE. So they say very openly. That is why I included the LTTE in my invitation. So, where is the need for a separate invitation to TNA when LTTE is already invited?

Asian Tribune: What about disarming the armed groups?

Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle: I don't say that some party should be given priority over others to hold on to arms. First and foremost LTTE has to be disarmed. They are a non state player and they are not to be given any special priority to hold on to arms. Only the Sri Lanka's armed forces can and should carry arms as protectors of the people.

It is indeed a big joke when reading that LTTE, another terrorist organization calling others as para-military groups! Who are they? They are non state actors. In the eyes of the government and before the bar of the international community, they are an armed militant group which is trying to wrest power from a democratically elected sovereign government. In short, LTTE is a terrorist group. They were declared as a terrorist organization in India, USA, and Canada and in 27 European Union countries. Therefore, the point I am making is that if we insist on the disarming of the other groups in the East, the task should begin first with the LTTE. Otherwise it would make things easy for the LTTE to easily gun down those unarmed groups.

This is what that had happened after the signing of UNP leader Ranil Wickremasinghe's famous Ceasefire Agreement, which had led to the country being divided into two separates parts on the lines of ethnic divide. Fortunately, this has been now halted after Mahinda Rajapakse took over the helm of the country and liberated the East from the separatist Tigers.

Asian Tribune : Ok! What about the case fire agreement between the Government and the LTTE? Whatever the government say or the LTTE may say, at least theoretically, the ceasefire accord is still on paper, not repudiated. So what is the present position of the ceasefire Agreement?

Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle: Regarding the ceasefire agreement, unfortunately we cannot implement it now, as it is anesthetized after the liberation of the East. But I wish to invite the LTTE to come for talks with the Government in the interest of the suffering Tamils in the Vanni. If the LTTE and its leader Prabakaran are interested in the Tamils of this country, they must come forward to negotiate a political settlement to the conflict with the government.

President Rajapakse personally and our Government are never interested in a military solutions to the ethnic issues that have been haunting the country for the last 30 years from the very day Velupillai Prabakaran and his misguided youths took up to arms after 1975.

After LTTE sent a woman suicide bomber to kill country's Army Commander and another motor bike riding killer to attack the Secretary to the Defence Ministry, Government decided to retaliate to check the LTTE's cowardly attacks.

There is a saying in Tamil that the one who continues to knock on ones head is neither a fool nor the one who receives the knocks.

After the Mavilaru incident, where LTTE did an anti-social act of closing down the sluice gates of the Mavil Aru through which irrigation waters reached thousands and thousands of acres of paddy lands, the government, after appealing to the deaf years of Prabakaran, was compelled to wrest the control of Mavil Aru and the region gradually. Of course, now, ultimately, we have liberated the east from the clutches of the Tigers. This military campaign exposed the myth of the LTTE's so called armed might

As I said this government of President Mahinda Rajapakse is not in favor of military solutions to the problems that have been caused by the Tigers. It is up to them to come forward for a negotiation. Tigers should also remember not to challenge a sovereign elected government.

Asian Tribune What is the role of Norway at the present situation?

Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle: People in the south and east look at Norway very suspiciously. Wherever Norway goes they end up with problems. In Nepal they were not welcome. In Darfur they had problem. Ethiopia, last month expelled six Norwegian diplomats accusing them of supporting Eritrea. Both countries have been engaged in a long-running battle over a border dispute.

Recently Ethiopian Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin accused Norway of supporting "terrorist groups" in Somalia, Eritrea and Sudan.

Already US State Department has declared that Eriteria is supporting directly Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

It is now believed that Norway is providing arms and money to LTTE through Eritrea. In the name of Eriteria government, arms and ammunitions are sent to Eritrea and from their arms and ammunitions are loaded into LTTE ships to be taken to Vanni.

We are at a loss to know why a section of the government leaders in Norway are arming and assisting LTTE against our government.

We also learnt that in case Prabhakaran and his colleagues are to flee the country, Norway has arranged Eritrea to give asylum, safety and security to Prabhakaran and his men.

-Asian Tribune -

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