The Web Sri Lanka In Focus

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Sri Lanka signals shift in war on Tamil Tigers

by Amal Jayasinghe

Sri Lanka's President signalled a shift in the war against the Tamil Tigers, saying he did not want to push his troops into rebel-held territory to defeat the guerrillas.

President Mahinda Rajapakse also said Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) may not have been behind a string of recent bombings on the island, and pointed at the possible involvement of political and business interests.

"We will hit if we are hit," the president said of his military strategy.

"The recent operations in the north are not aimed at advancing... I don't believe in a military solution," he told reporters.

The remarks were in sharp contrast to statements from the island's military and even the president's brother -- defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse -- who have stated their intention to seize the rebels' mini-state in the north and eliminate the guerrilla leadership.

The government had also earlier this month pulled out of a tattered Norwegian-brokered truce with the rebels, underscoring its sentiment that it has the upper hand in the long-running conflict.

Furthermore, the defence ministry has justified the decision to return to open war by pointing to a string of bomb attacks in and around Colombo and the south of the island -- which have claimed the lives of dozens of civilians and a government minister since the start of the year.

But the president said "other groups" may be at work in the conflict -- pointing to two blasts in Colombo that did not appear to be the work of the rebels.

"It is not like the LTTE to set off bombs to cause only a huge sound and no casualties," the president said.

"Why should they risk their men to plant these 'dumb bombs' when they are used to causing huge casualties."

Two people were slightly hurt in the two blasts. One bomb was inside a high security zone and the other was at an isolated railway platform here. Unlike the rebels' trademark mine attacks, there were no pellets packed into the bombs.

"We have to face it. The idea of these attacks is to create panic and give the impression that Colombo is not safe... It is clear that these are not LTTE bombs. This is what I believe. We are investigating," he said.

"There could be more incidents like this in Colombo and (the adjoining district of) Gampaha," the president warned, without giving further details.

The president's comments, however, came as fighting continued to rage in the north -- with security forces reporting 46 people killed, most of them rebels.

Since the start of this month, the Sri Lanka defence ministry has claimed it has killed 592 rebels against just 26 soldiers dead.

The military's death toll claims cannot be independently verified.

Source: AFP

12 Indian fishermen arrested by Sri Lankan Navy

RAMESWARAM (TN): Around 12 Indian fishermen were arrested by the Sri Lankan Navy on Tuesday for allegedly entering the country's territorial waters near Kachathivu, state fisheries department officials said.

The fishermen were later remanded to police custody by the Judicial Magistrate at Oorkaval near Kangesanthurai in the island nation, the officials said.

Three boats used by the fishermen were also seized by the Navy.

Meanwhile, the Indian Navy also took into custody, 48 fishermen from Rameswaram who had attempted to cross to the Sri Lankan waters on Tuesday and handed them over to the Fisheries department officials.

The license of their 12 boats and the diesel quota has been cancelled, the officials said.

Indian Navy had detained 12 other fishermen belonging to Rameswaram on Monday, along with their mechanised boat.

According to the information received by the Fisheries department, mines had been planted in the sea between Nedunthivu and Kachathivu.

As per the agreement signed while handing over Kachthivu island by India to Sri Lanka in the 70s, Indian fishermen were allowed to dry their net and also offer prayers at the local church, fishermen said adding this was being denied by the Sri Lankan officials.

Source: Times of india

I do not believe in military solution: Rajapaksa

Colombo, Jan 22: Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, today said he does not believe in a military solution to end the bloody ethnic crisis, but at the same time would give no room for terrorism in the island nation.

''I do not believe in a military solution and this (ethnic problem) needs a political solution. At the same time I cannot give room for terrorism and it would be appropriately dealt with,'' President Rajapaksa told reporters at a special interaction in the heavily-guarded Temple Trees today.

President Rajapaksa’s remarks have come at a time when the government troops and the Tamil Tiger rebels have locked in fierce fighting in the northern Wanni, Mannar region.

The Ministry of Defence claimed that at least 16 LTTE cadres were killed during several sporadic clashes with them in the northern battlefront yesterday.

He said that he was expecting soon a comprehensive set of devolution proposals from the All Party Representative Committee (APRC) appointed by him two years ago to work out a devolution proposal.

''I have called for a report from the APRC and I hope they will come out with something very soon,'' the President said.

Indirectly lashing out at some of the members of the international community who are urging his government to go for political dialogue with the LTTE, despite banning the LTTE as a foreign terrorist organisation in their own countries, President Rajapaksa said that the terrorists cannot be identified as ''good terrorists and bad terrorists.'' ''As far as I am concerned, there is no good terrorist and bad terrorist in the world. You have to fight out terrorism everywhere,'' said the President who is also the Minister of Defence and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, adding that his government unilaterally abrogated the Norwegian-brokered truce deal with the LTTE as it was reduced to an empty document with thousands of violations.

Slamming the LTTE of attacking civilians in the Southern Sri Lanka, where at least 42 civilians were killed within a matter of three days last week, President Rajapaksa expressed strong suspicion that 'some groups' in the Southern Sri Lanka could be helping the rebel groups to carry out such attacks.

''I personally feel that the LTTE cannot carry out these attacks deep in the South without the support of some groups. We are conducting investigation in this regard at the moment,'' President Rajapaksa said.

He said the motive behind the LTTE attacks in the South was to divert the attention of the troops from pressing ahead with their military onslaughts in the North.


S Lanka not to share power with Tigers

Sri Lanka's President has vowed to leave Tamil separatist rebels out of his government's effort to resolve the country's ethnic conflict.

Mahinda Rajapaksa, speaking to local newspaper editors and foreign correspondents based in Colombo, said that his latest political proposals on devolution of powers are expected to focus on moderate Tamils and not on the rebels of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who have resumed fighting with government forces.

"This proposal is not for terrorists. We do not believe that the LTTE is the sole representative of the Tamils. There are other Tamil groups and these proposals will be focused on them," Rajapaksa said.

A committee appointed to draft a proposal aimed at ending the ethnic conflict is due to submit proposals on Wednesday.

The proposal is the latest effort by the government to resolve the conflict after pulling out from a Norwegian backed cease-fire with the rebels on January 16.

Source: presstv

Political package: More powers for PCs

By Yohan Perera

The All Party Representative Committee which was set up to work out a solution to Sri Lanka’s longstanding ethnic conflict is said to be ready with its proposals for the implementation of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution with full powers devolved to provincial councils.

Minister Rajitha Senaratne told a news conference yesterday the APRC would also propose the holding of elections in the Eastern province and the setting up of an interim council in the North until elections are held there. The Eastern and Northern Provinces were de-merged last year.

He said APRC Chairman Tissa Vitharana would handover the Committee report to President Mahinda Rajapaksa tomorrow.

He said as a means of avoiding confusion the powers to be devolved to the provincial councils and those to be retained by the central government would be listed out clearly. Dr. Senaratne said all constituent parties of the government including the JHU, the Tamil and Muslim parties had agreed to the proposals and he expressed confidence the JVP too would agree.

“The JVP which earlier opposed the provincial councils are represented in those institutions today therefore there is no reason for them to go against these proposals,” he said.

Dr Senaratne said the main opposition UNP too would have no reason to reject the proposals as it was the UNP which originally introduced the provincial councils in 1987.

He said the question of a two thirds majority in parliament would not arise as the proposals would become effective when the President makes a declaration on receiving the APRC proposals.

While indicating the proposals would be implemented within the next few days, he said this year’s Independence Day would be a historic occasion for Sri Lanka.

Source: Dailymirror