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We want to catch LTTE chief alive: Rajapaksa – IBNLIVE

[MISC, Tuesday, 28 April 2009 07:55 No Comment]

Rajapaksa385_351657a Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has said Colombo would extradite LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran, if caught alive, to India but after first putting him through trial in his country. In an exclusive interview to CNN-IBN, Rajapaksa also said that Sri Lanka will immediately stop air strikes and use of heavy weapons in the war zone but he made it clear that it was not a ceasefire.

 

CNN-IBN: So have you instructed your army to ceasefire?

Rajapaksa: No. It is not ceasefire. We are freeing the people who are kept there as hostages. That is my duty. So the army is now only helping the civilians. We want to get the civilians out from them. It was at the Security Council where we finally thought that we have to do this because for the first time we made a statement saying that we are not using heavy weapons and attacks. An area which was called a no-fire zone was declared by the army on a day-to-day basis. So we managed to send them (civillians) to the no-fire zone. And the LTTE also took them there thinking that they can escape from the sea. But now they realised that they can’t move forward. But still they are using heavy weapons inside. They have heavy weapons inside the no-fire zone.

 

CNN-IBN: So the hostage rescue operation continues?

Rajapaksa: Continues. Yes.

 

CNN-IBN: The Indian Home Minister P Chidambaram declared that the Sri Lankan government had actually declared a fecation of hostages.

Rajapaksa: You know, when you say that you are not using heavy weapons and you are not using air attacks, then what is it? It’s like almost a ceasefire only. I mean now, soldiers are moving forward. So when you view all this it looks like a real war. But when we are not using heavy weapons then you know what is it? It’s not a war. That is what he must have said.

 

CNN-IBN: So what happens to tha LTTE leaders who are there inside? Do you believe they are still there?

Rajapaksa: Yes. The intelligence report says they are still there but we are waiting. We have called for and asked them to surrender, lay down their arms and surrender. They have never done that. As far as we can say either they have to surrender or face the army. That’s all.

 

CNN-IBN: So the army will eventually clear the area?

Rajapaksa: Yes. They will do that. These are very clear instructions.

 

CNN-IBN: So you have given the army very clear instructions not to compromise in the battlefield with regard to the fact that the LTTE are holed up there and let them make anything easier for them?

Rajapaksa: No no. I mean now it almost over between them because either they have to surrender or there is no option for them. This is only a six-square km area so we will be cleaning up. And till the last hostage is taken out from the LTTE hold, we will continue. We are not bothered about we Prabhakaran or any other person.

 

CNN-IBN: If you catch Prabhakaran alive will you hand him over to India?

Rajapaksa: First he has to go through our trial. First he will have to face that trial and then we might send him there.

 

CNN-IBN: So the laws of the land will ctach up with all the top LTTE leaders?

Rajapaksa: Oh yes. Definitely. Why not? We have to do that.

 

CNN-IBN: But you will also look into India’s request to extradite?

Rajapaksa: Certainly. I will be sending them. Why should I keep them. If anybody wants them they can take them. Because I think India has a right bacause he is the man who killed Rajiv Gandhi, one of the greatest leaders in India. So the people must deal with him and the government too – any government, whichever government comes to power – they have to deal with this man. This is what my personal views are. We will tackle him in our country for the things he has done.

 

CNN-IBN: So the instruction to the army is very clear catch the top LTTE leaders dead or alive?

Rajapaksa: You know I would prefer to catch them alive. We don’t want to kill them. We want to get them alive and tell the world ‘these are the terrorists’, these are the people. They are the people who have deprived the Tamil people of their rights in Sri Lanka. For 30 years they were suffering without development, and nothing else. They built bunkers poeple were never given food, whatever the government sent them, no education. The children of LTTE leaders on the other hand were educated in various universities and colleges abroad. But not these people. They are suffering. They were given cyanide and a gun – a T-56 – in their hands. Prabhakaran’s son and daughter all were given gosers and a university education. So they must know, the people must know who they are. That’s why I want them alive.

 

CNN-IBN: And what happens to the LTTE carders? Those who were recruited?

Rajapaksa: Today we have given clear instructions that they must be rehabilitated. We want to rehabilitate them. I have seen some of these young ones who have surrendered today – about 50 people and we are going to rehabilitate them. We have some cadres who have confessed. One confessed to having killed about 126 people. He is responsible but even then we will rehabilitate him.

 

CNN-IBN: So you will begin a programme of reintegrating them into the mainstream society?

Rajapaksa: Yes. We have to do that. Otherwise should we lock them up and keep them there? Feeding them? Why should we do that? If we can change them we will do that. We want to change them. Rehabilitate them. Use them for our society, for our development for this country. We have to get their talent.

 

CNN-IBN: What is your political vision in the post-conflict phase? How will you assure the Tamils that their political rights are protected in this country?

Rajapaksa: We have been protecting that from the beginning. What we are trying to do is implement the the Indo-Sri Lanka treaty and the 13th amendment. The 13th amendment was introduced and even Prabhakaran signed it agreeing to it and then suddenly he changed his mind. The 13th amendment is a part of our Constitution but unfortunately it was not implemented because of Prabhakaran and his crowd, because of the LTTE. So now we will have to implement that. And we have I have categorically said that it will be 13 plus 1. We called an all-party meeting, invited all the Tamil parties but unfortunately the proxy of the LTTE the TLA didn’t come for talks. We call them proxy because they were actually the people representing the LTTE in Parliament and abroad. But still we are trying to get them down and we will have a dialogue with them with the other political parties.

 

CNN-IBN: So you have a plan?

Rajapaksa: I have a plan. Whatever we did, the government, we had a plan. Clear this area, defeat terrorism from this country and then give them a political solution.

 

CNN-IBN: Is it possible for you to sketch out the political solution?

Rajapaksa: I think I must not impose any political solution on the people. It must come from the people. So I don’t want to say that ‘I’m going to give this and that’. Let the people call me. All the propositions must come. We must all get together and decide on that. Agree upon the things that we are going to give them.

 

CNN-IBN: What do you think about the political drama that has happened in Tamil Nadu in the last few days?

Rajapaksa: I don’t want to comment on that. I don’t want to. It’s not done, no? You must know better than me. And the people must know, the voters know. I was listening to one of the interviews on TV and I think it was very clear what the general feelings are.

 

CNN-IBN: So your belief is that these politicians are only staging protests for the elections?

Rajapaksa: I said no comments. Why do you want to go into that?

 

CNN-IBN: As regard the LTTE, as you said the worst is over. It’s just a small task that needs to be done. How will you dismantle the LTTE support structures that exist?

Rajapaksa: So this is where the international community comes in. They must help. There are organisations that collect money and buy weapons. I think this is where we would like to see other countries take action. We will not allow anyone else to reorganise LTTE again or reorganise terrorism again in this country.

 

CNN-IBN: And what about the humanitarian crisis that the world is also concerned about?

Rajapaksa: There is no crisis as such but suddenly 2,00,000 people come to your side fleeing from the LTTE clutches, we have to provide them food and shelter and we have managed to do that. If you go around Sri Lanka you will see in temples, churches, organisations all have we have managed to mobilise people and provide them with basics. And some of the countries of course are helping. When it come to development that is crisis. This is where the international community must come in and help us in the reconstruction of destroyed areas.

 

CNN-IBN: How about supplies to the small area where civilians are still trapped?

Rajapaksa: We have already informed ICRC, they are ready to supply what we need. It’s our responsibility to supply basics and we must deliver it to civilians. ICRC will take it forward. That’s why we want to finish off as soon as we can. There are 5,000 people even as many as 10,000 still trapped.

 

CNN-IBN: India’s role tactical and moral support – do you think you are in a position to talk about it?

Rajapaksa: The moral support or whatever support India gave us is what they should have given to us. It’s their duty to help us at this stage.

 

CNN-IBN: Was that a demand that you made when you visited India in 2005? You said that you would come to power and wipe off terror.

Rajapaksa: I can’t demand of anybody. I should not demand from a neighbouring country. I request.

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