Sri Lanka truce dead in all but name:
Swedish Major General Ulf Henricsson, Head, Sri
Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM)
Reuter Report, 29 July 2006
COLOMBO (Reuters) - A four-year ceasefire between Sri Lanka's government and the
Tamil Tiger rebels is dead in all but name and a low intensity war continues to
rage, the head of the Nordic mission that oversees the truce said on Saturday.
Neither the government nor the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) are
willing to compromise to try to halt violence that has killed more than 800
people this year, and the military is being heavy-handed, said retired Swedish
Major General Ulf Henricsson, who heads the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM).
"In reality they more or less have terminated the ceasefire agreement in their
actions," he told Reuters in an interview at his home in downtown Colombo.
"It's still useful if the parties decide they want to talk, then you have the
paper and you can go back to it. But just now we are far from a real ceasefire."
Sri Lanka's air force bombed rebel territory in the restive east for a fourth
day on Saturday in a bid to wrest control of a rebel-held reservoir, killing
seven LTTE fighters.
The government accuses the Tigers of choking the flow of water to state-held
territory, and has vowed to send in ground troops backed up by more air raids if
"It is definitely the wrong method. It is definitely overkill if you want the
water," Henricsson said.
The air force dropped a bomb on Friday 750 metres (yards) away from where
Henricsson was meeting rebel leaders in the eastern district of Trincomalee in a
bid to resolve the dispute.
"We sat talking and got clearance from the government and tried to convince the
LTTE to have confidence in the government," he said. "They dropped a bomb in the
vicinity. That's not the right signal."
Many observers fear the fighting could spiral out of control, rupture a 2002
truce and restart a two-decade civil war that has killed more than 65,000 people
since 1983. But Henricsson doubts there will be a full-blown war.
"I don't think either side have the capacity for a full-scale war," he said.
"They definitely could continue and maybe increase the violence. There is also a
risk that violence will spread, for example to Colombo, if they don't take care
of the situation."
Henricsson is fighting a battle of his own. Finland and Denmark announced on
Friday they would withdraw their 22 monitors after the Tigers demanded they quit
the island by Sept. 1 in the face of a new EU terror ban against the rebels.
His native Sweden has not made up its mind. If they pull out, he is out of a job
and the 54-strong mission will be hamstrung.
"If Sweden follow, it's just one-third of the monitors left. We can't keep up
with all the complaints, it's impossible for us," he said.
"If SLMM is completely closed, you do have not that messenger that can support
talks and look into serious violations. It will definitely make the life of
ordinary people more insecure."
Analysts and diplomats worry an exodus of truce monitors could create a
dangerous vacuum and make the situation even more volatile.