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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 109

Tamil Tigers threaten international shipping and food supplies to Jaffna

Colombo, 23 January, ( The Tiger attack on the cargo ship "City of Liverpool MV” that transported food to Jaffna signals a serious threat to (1) international shipping in the Indian Ocean and (2) the supply food and essential items to the people of Jaffna through the sea route, according to analysts.

This is the second Tiger attack on ships within two weeks. On 23 December 2006,.the Tigers hijacked FARAH III carrying 14,000 MT of rice from India to S. Africa. On Sunday, (21, January 2006) a cluster of Tigers boats aproached "City of Liverpool MV” berthed in the Point Pedro Sea in an attemp to sink it. But a three pronged attack from air, land and sea drove the Tigers away. Two Tiger boats were completely destroyed. One Tiger boat managed to break through and hit the hull causing it to leak. Navy has rushed to repair the damage and take it to Kankesanthurai.

In the past, the LTTE has hijacked several vessels. Some of the reported cases relate to the hijacking of Irish Mona (August 1995), Princess Wave (August 1996), Athena (May 1997), Misen (July 1997), Morong Bong (July 1997), Cordiality (Sept 1997) and Princess Kash (August 1998). M V Cordiality, was captured by the LTTE and five Chinese crew were killed allegedly by Sri Lankan terrorists near the port of Trincomalee.13Princess Kash, a Belize flagged general cargo vessel was hijacked by LTTE rebels, while on its way to Mullaitivu, a LTTE stronghold. The Sri Lankan Air Force bombed the vessel to prevent the ship's cargo falling into the hands of the LTTE. The status of the 22-crew members is still not known.

The Tiger attack on ships carrying food and essentials to the people of Jaffna is also seen as a deliberate attempt to create a food shortage and a humanitarian crisis which could be used to blame the Sri Lankan government. The Tiger tactic has been to block supplies of food to Jaffna and then complain to the international community that the Sri Lankan government is depriving the people of Jaffna food.

The Tamil wing of the Sri Lankan Catholic Church, led by Bishop of Thomas Soundaranayagam, which has gone along with the Tigers in blaming the Sri Lankan government for food shortages, has so far not commented on the Tiger threats to ships bringing food to Jaffna.

Military analysts also view this as an attempt to pressure the Government to open the A-9 land route to Jaffna -- a route that runs through Tiger territory. The Tigers are desperate to get this route opened as it is one of the primary sources of raking in money through illegal taxes on goods going to Jaffna. It is estimated that Tigers collect around Rs. 300 per month.

Commenting on this, the spokesperson for the Australian-based Society for Peace Unity and Human Rights, Ranjith Soysa, said : "The LTTE must decide whether they want food to be delivered to the people of Jaffna or to collect money for their kiling machine by imposing taxes on the food sent to the people of Jaffna. It is also immoral for them to block food supplies going to Jaffna and then blame it on the government which is making every efort to send food to the people of Jaffna."

He added: "It is clear that the LTTE request to open the A-9 route is motivated by their terrorist objectives, and not by any genuine concern for the Tamil civilians. The hidden motive of the Tamil Tigers is to prevent food and other essential items being transported to the peninsula so that they could exploit the suffering of the Tamil people to gain some political mileage by misleading the internatinal community. "

A spokesperson of Point Pedro port told Asian Tribune that "City of Liverpool" brought 2900 MT of wheat flour. About 400 MT of flour was unloaded up to the time of attack of the ship at about 3.45 pm on Sunday 22 January. As of yesterday the ship was left with 2500 MT of flour to be unloaded. A spokesman of the Port said normally the Point Pedro port was geared to unload around 600 MT of food items a day.

According to port authorities cargo ship that come with food items and other consignments are brought to the Point Pedro port early in the morning and in the evening they are taken sometimes 04 nautical miles away from the port to a safe place in sea with Naval personnel on board guarding the ship. Sri Lanka Navy boats also patrol the area close to ship to prevent Tiger attacks.

Around 3.45 PM on Sunday, 15-20 sea Tiger boats were spotted sailing from the direction Vettilaikerni located in the east of Point Pedro.

Once a flotilla of Tigers boats were spotted, Sri Lanka Naval troops immediately rushed to confront the Sea Tigers. At the same time "City of Liverpool MV" began to head towards Kankesanthurai.

Seeing this 5 to 6 Sea Tiger boats pursued it. The Tiger boats opened fire aiming damage and sink the vessel.

The Navy immediately came to the assistance of the besieged ship and in the ensuing sea battle two suicide boats were completely destroyed.

The naval escort personnel on board the merchant vessel kept firing at the attackers in an effort to keep them at bay. But one of the suicide boats exploded very near the vessel, damaging its hull and causing leak, it was reported.

The Tamil Tiger Peace Secretariat reported of a naval confrontation and said it lasted for about three hours.

It also reported: “The Sri Lankan naval personnel manning a freighter triggered off the confrontation by firing upon the sea tiger unit, the Sea Tiger sources say.”

The Navy has evacuated the crew from the ship. It is learnt that all the crew members of the ship are Indians and all were saved from the Tiger attack. Arrangements have been made to tow the ship after repairing the damages to Kankesanthurai

Tiger disregard for Tamil civilians was made clear when they shot down Lionair Flight 602 which left Jaffna at 1.40 PM with 48 Tamil passengers and an air crew of 6 which was due to land in Colombo at 2.40 PM. on 29 September 1998. The plane was shot down near Iranativu, which is 15 miles north of the Mannar Island. All the 48 Tamil passengers and crew members perished in the mid sea near Mannar.

- Asian Tribune -

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