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Fighting LTTE with zero civilian casualties, our dilemma – Defence spokesman

[Sunday Observer.lk, Saturday, 13 December 2008 21:58 No Comment]

z_p06-Fight Stressing the need for implementing all decisions agreed to at the regional forums including the SARRC, to combat terrorism, the Minister of Foreign Employment and Military Spokesman, Keheliya Rambukwella cautioned the Indian government to be more `careful’ about the LTTE as it was looking for a homeland including the Tamil Nadu.


He said that terrorism was a common curse in the region and could not be wiped out in isolation. "It is time to fight terrorism together. I hope exchange of programs and methodologies that are in use can be given effect now", he said.


Minister Rambukwella said that though the Opposition was trying to negotiate with the LTTE, it would not happen under the regime of President Mahinda Rajapaksa who wanted to wipe out the LTTE soon.

Requesting people and political parties to work together without being politically divided, he said that it was time to shed all differences to defeat terrorism so as to safeguard the territorial integrity of the country. "Then there will be a country for us to play our political games freely", he said.


Following are the excerpts of the interview:


Q: Two major LTTE terror plots planned in Colombo and Jaffna similar to those in Mumbai were busted by the military last week. What are the measures adopted to strengthen the security in the major cities in the country ?

A: Certain special measures have been taken by the Security Forces while the number of entrances and exits into the capital is restricted. The security personnel carry out checks without much of a hinderance to the public.

The security in the city has been further strengthened taking various extra measures. We review the security situation regularly to make up for any lapses or shortcomings. On the other hand, the terrorists try their best to make use of all the loopholes to creep in and disrupt the normalcy. Taking extra measures to strengthen the security is an on-going process.

This is what is terrorism and that is why it is important for all of us, -locally and regionally to get together and fight it out. It is vital to have inter relations arrangement to eradicate terrorism. It cannot be done in isolation. It has become a common phenomenon. A couple of months back it was Pakistan’s Marriot and now it is the Mumbai and some time ago it was the Galadari in Sri Lanka! Since these are becoming common problems within the region we need some `common combination’ to control and combat terrorism. And now it’s time to put together whatever-SAARC or the decisions of other forums agreed on ground realities and practical operations to combat terrorism. I hope exchange of programs and methodologies that are in use can be looked at now.


Q: Being the super power of the region, how crucial is the India’s support in combating terrorism in the region ?

A: You can’t say one is more powerful than the other in the game of terrorism. Look at Mumbai. It is one of the four cities which has the best security but eight terrorists who got into the city did the devastation.

There is no question of more powerful and less powerful militarily. But when it comes to terrorism we all become helpless and we need to join hands to get out of it.


Q: The LTTE has accused the Air Force for dropping cluster bombs on innocent civilians in Vanni. What do you have to say ?

A: The government does not give any attention to what the LTTE is talking about humanitarian issues. They are the most ruthless terrorist organisation which took the entire Tamil Community back to the stone-age, harassed and killed them. The LTTE is still in a killing spree and the government does not have any concern about their statements. What they are trying is to shed crocodile tears at this time because they are getting attacked mercilessly and they will be attacked till the last.


Q: But what is the truth in this allegation ? Do you refute the claim?

A: Yes, we must commend the efforts of our Security Forces for maintaining zero casualties. No where in the world that an internal war is fought in this manner with zero casualties. We have shown the world that we are fighting a war against terrorists but not against the innocent civilians.


Q: One major achievement that the government boasts about is the liberation of the East. But the incidents of terrorist attacks are still reported from time to time. Do you see any security lapses have caused this situation ?

A: East is an area where we have had battles with the LTTE for almost three decades. So, no one can expect things to happen over-night. We need experience. It was not a bed of roses but a tough journey. In this tough journey you find certain hiccups and things go beyond our control. But this does not mean that we should give it back to the terrorists. It is pathetic and unfortunate to see the Opposition is trying to negotiate this issue with the LTTE. That will not happen under this regime under the guidance of the President as long as he is the Commander- in- Chief. There is no question of giving in to the LTTE. We will fight it out and will face the consequences. We are confident that we will phase them out soon.

Security has been fully strengthened in the East and cordon and search operations are being done. Over 100 people have been taken into custody for questioning. It is an on-going process and now the East is under control.


Q: The Pillaiyan – Karuna group is continuing to be armed asserting that their lives are under threat. Why are they allowed to carry arms despite the fact they are given State security ?

A: There is a gun culture that exists in the East for more than three decades. People were carrying arms and controlling people. Even in Colombo there were gangs who carried arms and fighting with each other. The government has been able to control them to a greater extent. But still it is not totally eradicated and when you go through the papers you can find out such incidents. Likewise the government will contain these incidents in the East soon.


Q: What is the progress of civilians moving in to liberated areas ?

A: We have moved upto Mankulam and Puliyankulam and it’s nearly 48 kilometres of the A-9 road. As we are pushing the Omanthai check point towards that end, there are greater chances of people moving into the control areas.


Q: While expecting a mass exodus of people, can the government guarantee their welfare ?

A: Yes, we have experience of handling this kind of situation in Vakarai. Similarly we are geared to handle the situation in the North.

While being ready to meet all the challenges in handling humanitarian relief, the government is providing them shelter materials, dry rations and in some areas cooked food as well.


Q: But some Tamil Nadu politicians who claimed that there are lapses in the Indian food reaching the needy, have urged that food distribution should be handled by the Indians themselves. What is your comment ?

A: We do not need any body to handle the distribution. If the Tamil Nadu politicians can pressurise the LTTE not to rob the food sent to the civilians, that would be the greatest help. The government has been feeding the LTTE upto date and no doubt a major portion of the food sent by the India goes to the LTTE. I do not know about the double standards of these Tamil Nadu politicians but what the government knows is that they try to creep into the Sri Lankan issue.

But the government is quite confident that the Central Government of India does not want to interfere with our domestic problems.

The Indian government should be more careful as the LTTE is looking at a homeland including Tamil Nadu. The LTTE’s cynical agendas are known well to the world today.

The government is doing its best to protect people in Vanni and we have evidence that the food have reached the people.

At the same time we have also proof that part of the food is still being robbed by the LTTE, which used stocks of rice to build their bunkers in Vakarai.


Q: A Presidential Task Force will soon be appointed until an independent body to monitor the work of the NGOs and INGOs will be set up. Will this affect the on-going relief measures to Vanni civilians ?

A: Certainly not. We need to strike a balance between the relief and sovereignty of this country. The government cannot just leave the sovereignty of this country to go into the hands of the terrorists. Those so-called INGOs and NGOs need to be monitored and controlled. Nowhere in the world that the governments just allow them to come and operate in their countries. This government has a greater concern and we will take whatever the measures possible to make sure about their actions.


Q: The Norwegian People’s Aid which was found to have supported the LTTE by giving then heavy machinery, has decided to quit their job. Can these INGOs just leave without being questioned ?

A: The Task Force and the Parliament has taken this up and I am sure that necessary action will be taken in accordance with the law of the land.

They should be held accountable for what they have done. Any one can come in to help our people but they should be held accountable to the government because we are a sovereign country. They were allowed to come in and when they are questioned for their mis-behaviour, they come up with the issue of harassment.

These are the terminologies that they use for their own benefits to carry out their cynical activities. We have now got enough and we have more evidence to show their illegal activities and the government would take necessary action soon.

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