Last Updated : 24-07-2014 07:36

 
 

SLMM tipped-off LTTE

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A move by Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) made a gunrunning vessel belonging to the  Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), escape from Sri Lanka Navy, whistle-blower website- Wikileaks reveals.

The highly confidential cable sent by Colombo US Embassy to Washington, dated October 23, 2003 was classified by Colombo’s Charge´ d´Affaires James F. Entwistle.

Entwistle reports that this series of events led to then President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga requesting the Norwegian government to remove the then incumbent SLMM chief Tryggve Teleffsen.

SLMM deliberately tipped off the Tigers-CBK

“In her letter (to Norway), the President also specifically complained that the SLMM had recently acted to prevent the navy from intercepting a reported Tiger arms re-supply ship operating off the northeast coast. The president directly accused the SLMM of either deliberately trying to tip off the Tigers via a phone call so that their boat could escape, or acting in a highly negligent manner. Mission was told by the Defense Minister that the SLMM´s actions in this matter were inadvertent.”

The Cable also reveals that the SLMM chief (reportedly an experienced Norwegian serviceman who retired as General) had admitted to then US Ambassador that the SLMM in fact caused the events that allowed the LTTE to evade apprehension by Sri Lanka Navy.

“(Recently, US) Ambassador briefly spoke to Tellefsen about the October 16 incident off the northeast coast. (The conversation took place before the demand for his ouster). Confirming what we were told by the Defense Minister, Tellefsen admitted that his office had made a mistake by contacting the Tigers and asking them about the report that one of their ships was operating off the northeast coast.”

However Tellefsen had defended his subordinate’s action adding that, “there was no intention to tip off the Tigers”.

Matter had been badly handled

“That said, Tellefsen said the matter had been badly handled and that the SLMM duty officer had failed to brief him on the matter in time.”
Teleffsen, a retired Norwegian Major General, took over as chief monitor in March 2003, replacing Trond Furuhovde, another former Norwegian military official.

This 2003 incident led President Kumaratunga to request that Norway remove the errant SLMM chief. US Embassy said that in making her demand, the president was cited as having "serious doubts" about Teleffsen´s and his organization’s impartiality and objectivity.

“The president went on to assert that the continuation of the ceasefire "within acceptable levels of national security requires effective, objective and impartial monitoring of the truce," but that Teleffsen´s conduct, when compared to his predecessor, had been "quite unsatisfactory."

UNP shying away from CBKs move

“The Sri Lankan government is balking at supporting the president’s demand. Locked in a tense cohabitation situation with the president and her party, unnamed members of the United National Party (UNP) governing coalition have been quoted in the press as warning the president that her efforts to remove Tellefsen are putting the peace process at risk.”

Entwistle added that the US Embassy was “not sure how far President Kumaratunga wants to push this matter,” adding that she “has a propensity for making huge issues of matters and then dropping them,”
“Given her track record, it is very possible that she is simply trying to score points with her political base,”

Full Text Of The Cable


10/23/2003

14:07

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 COLOMBO 001845

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR SA, SA/INS, EUR/NB; NSC FOR E. MILLARD
PLEASE ALSO PASS TOPEC E.O. 12958:
DECL: 10-24-13

TAGS: PGOV, PTER, MOPS, PHSA, CE, NO, LTTE - Peace Process
SUBJECT: President demands removal of chief monitor,
but it is not clear how far she wants to push matter

Refs:
- (A) SA/INS -Colombo telecon 10/23/03

- (B) FBIS Reston Va DTG 231407Z Oct 03

- (C) Colombo 1826, and previous

(U) Classified by Charge´ d´Affaires James F. Entwistle. Reasons 1.5 (b,d).

1. (C)

SUMMARY: President Kumaratunga has requested that Norway
remove the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) chief. In
making this demand, the president complained that the SLMM had
lost "objectivity." While the GoN reviews next steps, the SLMM
is continuing its operations. The GSL is balking at removing
the SLMM chief and we are not sure how far Kumaratunga wants
to push the matter. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU)

PRESIDENT LASHES OUT: President Kumaratunga has requested that
Norway remove Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) chief
Tryggve Teleffsen. The president made this demand in a letter
that was sent to the Norwegian government. The full text of
the letter was not made public, but some of its contents have
been leaked to the press. In making her demand, the president
was cited as having "serious doubts" about Teleffsen´s and his
organization´s impartiality and objectivity. The president
went on to assert that the continuation of the ceasefire
"within acceptable levels of national security requires
effective, objective and impartial monitoring of the truce,"
but that Teleffsen´s conduct, when compared to his
predecessor, had been "quite unsatisfactory." Teleffsen, a
retired Norwegian major general, took over as chief monitor in
March, replacing Trond Furuhovde, another former Norwegian
military official.

3. (C)

In her letter, the president also specifically complained that
the SLMM had recently acted to prevent the navy from
intercepting a reported Tiger arms resupply ship operating off
the northeast coast (see Ref C). The president directly
accused the SLMM of either deliberately trying to tip off the
Tigers via a phone call so that their boat could escape, or
acting in a highly negligent manner. Per Ref C, Mission was
told by the Defense Minister that the SLMM´s actions in this
matter were inadvertent (see more below).

4. (C)

GSL/NORWEGIAN RESPONSE: The Sri Lankan government is balking
at supporting the president´s demand. Locked in a tense
cohabitation situation with the president and her party,
unnamed members of the United National Party (UNP) governing
coalition have been quoted in the press as warning the
president that her efforts to remove Tellefsen are putting the
peace process at risk.

5. (C)

Mission´s understanding is that the Norwegian government is
reviewing next steps, and has not yet responded to the
president´s letter. Charge´ called Norwegian Ambassador Hans
Brattskar early October 24. Brattskar would not comment on
the phone, but invited Charge over to discuss the matter later
in the day. Timo Ekdahl, the SLMM´s acting spokesperson and
chief of operations, told polchief that the SLMM was waiting
for the Norwegian government to decide what to do in response
to the president´s demand. As far as the SLMM was concerned,
he added, it was "business as usual," however, with no changes
in personnel for the group or adjustment in its operations at
this time.

6. (C)

CONVERSATION WITH TELLEFSEN: At a recent function, the
Ambassador briefly spoke to Tellefsen about the October 16
incident off the northeast coast. (The conversation took
place before the demand for his ouster). Confirming what we
were told by the Defense Minister (see Ref C), Tellefsen
admitted that his office had made a mistake by contacting the
Tigers and asking them about the report that one of their
ships was operating off the northeast coast. There was no
intention to tip off the Tigers, he underscored. That said,
Tellefsen said the matter had been badly handled and that the
SLMM duty officer had failed to brief him on the matter in
time.

7. (C)

COMMENT: We are not sure how far President Kumaratunga wants
to push this matter. She has a propensity for making huge
issues of matters and then dropping them. Given her track
record, it is very possible that she is simply trying to score
points with her political base, which is significantly more
skeptical toward the peace process than the general public
(and happens to be gathering today in Colombo for a big
rally). If the president presses this matter, it will become
a real cohabitation donnybrook, however, with the president
pitted against the prime minister over which of them has power
over foreign policy. The president legally does, but the prime
minister has effective day-to-day control and would be loath
to give into her on this issue. At the same time, disruptions
in the SLMM´s operations would be highly problematic for the
ceasefire and the larger peace process, especially in light of
the likely delivery of the LTTE counterproposals in a week or
so. There is no doubt that it would be best for all concerned
if the president backs down and soon. END COMMENT.

8. (U) Minimize considered.

ENTWISTLE (Asiantribune.com)


 
 

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