“The LTTE shipping fleet … operated with impunity in spite of a range of laws governing international shipping operations,” Columbage

Shamindra Ferdinand0, in The Island, 17 November 2011, where the ttitle reads “UN agency promises probe into LTTE maritime ops

The Sri Lanka Navy on Tuesday (15) urged the UN agency, International Maritime Organisation (IMO), to investigate how the LTTE had operated a fleet of ships in spite of being a proscribed organisation. Rear Admiral J. S. K. Colombage raised the issue with Ms. Brenda Pimental, IMO’s Regional Coordinator, at the Galle Dialogue 2011, at the Light House Hotel, Galle. The SLN veteran pushed the IMO for a cohesive inquiry to identify shortcomings in the system and adopt remedial action.

Colombage said that the illegitimate LTTE operation could be a case study for the UN agency. The official was responding to Ms. Pimentel, after she presented a 30-minute paper on ‘Current Challenges in Global Maritime and IMO initiatives’ on the second-day of the confab attended by 19 countries, including nuclear powers, US, Russia, China, France, India and Pakistan. Although the government of Sri Lanka had acted swiftly and decisively when asked to implement the International Ship and Port Facility Code (ISPS Code), Sri Lanka’s plea for action against the LTTE wasn’t heeded.

The ISPS Code is a comprehensive set of measures to enhance the security of ships and port facilities developed in response to perceived threats to ships and port facilities, in the wake of Al Qaeda attacks on the US.

“The LTTE shipping fleet flouted all international laws. It operated with impunity in spite of a range of laws governing international shipping operations,” Colombage said.

An agitated Ms. Pimentel requested the SLN to make representations to the London-based IMO promising to take up the issue. The IMO, formerly known as the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organisation (IMCO), was established in Geneva in 1948 and came into operation 10 years later. Ms. Pimentel said that the IMO would be meeting again in London next week.

Rear Admiral Dato Musa bin Omar, Assistant Chief of Staff, Plans and Operations, Royal Malaysian Navy, seated next to Ms Pimentel, assured Colombage that Malaysia would throw its weight behind its request. Omar asserted that a joint appeal by several countries would make a difference at the IMO.

In August 2009, Malaysia facilitated the arrest and extradition of Kumaran Pathmanathan alias ‘KP’, who had played a pivotal role in LTTE ‘shipping operations’ since early ‘90s.

Captain Kalana Jinadasa, currently based in the Northern Command, queried whether the IMO could take punitive action against those countries, which provided flags of convenience to LTTE ships. Capt. Kalana suggested that those countries should be accountable for co-operating with the LTTE.

Ms. Pimentel said the IMO couldn’t move against countries. “We don’t have the power to enforce rules and regulations. The responsibility of taking action against those undermining the system rests with the countries,” she said.

During the then SLN Chief Vice Admiral Daya Sandagiri’s tenure at the helm, Sri Lanka raised the issue of the LTTE operating ships under various foreign flags, intelligence sources said. Responding to a query, an official said that Sri Lanka called for tangible action on the part of the UN agency after the SLN trapped two LTTE ships off Mullaitivu flying ‘flags of convenience’ during the Norwegian-arranged Ceasefire Agreement (CFA).

Rear Admiral Colombage told ‘The Island’ that the LTTE wouldn’t have survived for so long, had the global community heeded Sri Lanka’s appeal to put the LTTE fleet out of action at an early stage. According to him, the LTTE still maybe operating ships with the convenience of those involved in the industry, over two years after the demise of its conventional military capability. The LTTE collapsed on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon on May 19, 2009.

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Filed under accountability, historical interpretation, Indian Ocean politics, LTTE, military strategy, power politics, propaganda, Rajapaksa regime, Sinhala-Tamil Relations, Tamil migration, terrorism, world events & processes

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