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We give highest priority to civilian safety: Rajapaksa

[Hindu, Sunday, 4 January 2009 22:35 No Comment]

President Mahinda Rajapaksa expects the Sri Lankan armed forces to make rapid advances and capture Elephant Pass, which controls access to the Jaffna Peninsula, and other key targets in a short while. He is confident that, in the near future, the fighting cadres of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam will have nowhere to go outside the jungles of Mullaithivu district in northern Sri Lanka.

 

Speaking to me over the telephone from Colombo on Sunday evening, Mr. Rajapaksa expressed satisfaction that his ‘Zero Civilian Casualty Policy’ was implemented perfectly by the armed forces during the operations to liberate Kilinochchi, the administrative hub and de facto ‘capital’ of the LTTE. They would continue to implement this policy in all their operations.

 

“See what is happening in Palestine! Horrible,” the Sri Lankan President said. “I spoke to the Palestinian President [Mahmoud Abbas] to find out the real situation there.”

 

Mr. Rajapaksa expressed concern over the LTTE not releasing the tens of thousands of Tamil civilians it holds “virtually as prisoners.” He has warned the organisation that it would face a ban if it continued to deny Tamil civilians their freedom and human rights. It is understood that the ban could come within a week. Paradoxically, the LTTE, which has been banned or designated as a terrorist entity in some 30 countries, including India, is yet to be proscribed in Sri Lanka.

 

“We have to give the highest priority to looking after these civilians,” Mr. Rajapaksa told me in the telephonic conversation. “We want their safety. That is why I am insisting strongly on their release.”

 

“We are sending them food,” the Sri Lankan President added. “We are feeding the LTTE. We won’t keep them hungry even after the civilians come over!”

[Full Coverage]

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