The Web Sri Lanka In Focus

Monday, 31 March 2008

I committed 'three' mistakes as Lanka prez: Kumaratunga

Former Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga said she has committed "three" mistakes during her nine-year reign, including dismissal of UNP-led government in 2004.

Kumaratunga said she realised that an alliance with the Marxist JVP party was a mistake she committed while at the helm of affairs in the country.

Similarly, she said, the UNP-led government of Ranil Wickremesinghe should not have been dismissed in 2004.

The 62-year-old former President said she would reveal the third mistake she committed sometime in the future.

In an interview to a Sinhala weekly, Kumaratunga said her party the Sri Lankan Freedom Party (SLFP) and the opposition United National Party should forge an alliance to resolve the 25-year-old Tamil ethnic conflict.

"I think the SLFP and UNP should come together and work out a common understanding to find a solution to resolve the conflict in the country," she said.

She also made it clear that neither she nor her sister Sumitra would enter active politics.

Their brother and former Foreign Minister Anura Bandaranaike died recently raising questions about the future representatives of the legendary Bandaranaike family in politics.

Fifty nine-year-old Anura, son of Prime Ministers S W R D Bandaranaike and Sirimavo Bandaranaike was at one time considered a forerunner for the country's top post.


21 killed in Lanka clashes, LTTE runway damaged

Sri Lankan fighter jets today destroyed a 'runway' operated by the LTTE even as a series of clashes over the weekend left 20 Tamil Tigers and a soldier dead in the embattled northern region.

Military fighter jets twice attacked an LTTE 'runway' located 10-km west of rebel strong hold of Mullaitivu and the pilots confirmed the target was hit successfully, Air Force spokesperson Wing Commander Andrew Wijesooriya said.

According to defence sources, ten people, including a soldier, were killed in clashes yesterday while eleven rebels were shot down a day earlier.

While three militants, including two female LTTE cadres, were gunned down in Veddayanmuripu area in Mannar, another three were killed in Vavuniya region yesterday.

Troops also killed one Tiger rebel in Periyawalayankaddu area in the region yesterday, the Media Centre for National Security (MCNS) said.

Another militant was killed in Veddayanmuripu area, it said, adding in a separate incident troops gunned down one militant in Mallikattidal area in Mannar, also yesterday.

One soldier lost his life in clashes in Madhu area in North-western Mannar, the Defence Ministry said. Sri Lankan fighter jets also "successfully" targeted Chilawathha Alampil area in a rebel stronghold in northern region yesterday noon, the MCNS said.

According to delayed reports, the security forces gunned down four LTTE tigers in the Madhu area on Saturday, the MCNS said, adding that seven militants were also killed in another confrontation in Madhu on the same day.


Illegal travel to India lands Sri Lankans in trouble

Two Sri Lankans were arrested and another four including a woman detained for questioning Monday off the Rameshwaram coast in Tamil Nadu for trying to enter India illegally, police sources said here.

The two who were arrested were identified as Anton (40) and Valentine (29).

A police spokesman said that an Indian naval helicopter spotted them travelling in a high-speed boat ferrying a 30-year-old woman, Nakuleshwari, and her three children from Trincomalee in eastern Sri Lanka to India.

After surrendering to the Indian authorities, the family admitted paying Rs.50,000 to the boatmen, a police officer quoted officials as saying in the coastal town of Rameshwaram.

The family had come looking for their male breadwinner who had fled to India earlier, the police said.

The police said that the antecedents of the six people were being checked to discern whether they were linked to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

"On the basis of their statements, we will decide the future course of action," a police source said.


Sri Lanka offering overseas jobs to Tamil rebels

The Sri Lankan government said Monday it was contemplating offering overseas jobs to Tamil Tiger rebels who surrendered to the authorities.

Keheliya Rambukwella, defence spokesman and minister of foreign employment told reporters that he had discussed the issue with the International Organization for Migration.

He said some 47 Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) members who had surrendered in the northern Jaffna peninsula were being rehabilitated in two centres.

Some 11 former LTTE members had already been released and gone on jobs overseas, said the spokesman.

Rambukwella said the government has put up posters offering financial help and foreign employment to the members of LTTE's suicide squad.

"This was an action taken purely on humanitarian grounds," Rambukwella said, adding that the government wanted to offer an alternative to the LTTE members in order to prevent destructive action by them.


Sri Lankan war jets bomb LTTE airstrip

Sri Lankan jets Monday carried out two air raids on a suspected fresh airstrip of the Tamil Tigers in their heartland in Mullaitivu in the island’s north, the military said. “Air Force Kfirs and Mig-27s bombed an LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) runway located 10 km west of Mullaitivu town at 9.45 a.m. and 10.30 a.m.,” said military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara.

“The pilots have confirmed that they … damaged it extensively,” he said, giving no further details.

Although the Sri Lankan jets have periodically bombed the LTTE airstrip at Iranaimadu in the rebel-held north, this is for the first time the air force has said it bombed a rebel airstrip in the Mullaitivu district.

The LTTE is known to be in possession of unspecified number of Czech-built Zlin Z-143 light wing aircraft and have carried out five air raids against Sri Lankan military and economic targets until October 2007.

There was no reaction from the LTTE regarding the latest air raid.

Meanwhile, Brig Nanayakkara claimed that at least 678 LTTE cadres and 73 government soldiers were killed while a large number of rebels and 316 soldiers were wounded in fighting in March.

He said despite the challenges posed by the unexpected torrential rains and resultant floods, government troops were continuing with their offensive aiming at pushing the Tigers further into the war zone.