No third party mediation - Defence Secretary
"What matters most is what the average citizen of this country wants
and hopes for," Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa said during an
interview with the Sunday Observer.
Following are the excerpts:
At this juncture, when the Security Forces are on the verge of victory
in their war against terrorism we see the Government is under pressure
over many issues especially from the international community. How would
you explain this situation?
A: Considering the developments took place during the last few weeks
we see that the international concerns on the present situation are much
more serious than before; especially from the Western countries. There
are varieties of concerns from these parties. The Government is
pressured, especially from certain Western countries, to go for a
ceasefire and provide access for a third party to the `No Fire Zone' to
negotiate with the LTTE for a settlement. Still, the Government's main
concern is the betterment of its citizens. If any of the suggestions can
bring benefit to the people, it will be welcome. The Government, which
is elected by the people themselves, is bound to look after their
During the 30 year old battle against terrorism it is the Sri Lankans
alone who suffered most and no one else! People want to see an end to
the terrorist menace. This they have reiterate repeatedly by voting the
ruling party to power during elections.
Q: There was considerable speculation on the visit of the Indian
Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon and National Security Advisor M. K.
Narayanan. Could you explain the actual situation and the objectives
underlying their visit.
A: The visit of the Indian Foreign Secretary and the National
Security Advisor imposed no pressure on the ongoing operations either on
the basis of a Ceasefire or stopping the current operations. They were
only concerned about the plight of the civilians trapped under the LTTE
hold. That is understandable. Indian Government does need to take into
consideration the concerns over Sri Lanka raised by the Tamil Nadu
State. They are facing a tough election where the displaced civilian
from Sri Lanka have formed a considerable percentage of votes. The two
delegates were concerned over the number of casualties among the
civilians. Their interest was on how the Indian Government can assist us
in the humanitarian work. During discussions with the President Mahinda
Rajapaksa, the two delegates were extensively briefed on how the
Government is providing humanitarian assistance for the displaced
people. It was stressed during the discussions that Government's main
concern is the safety of the civilians. They were very satisfied with
the Government's efforts in the present situation as well as the future
plans to resettle and rehabilitate these people. In fact, the Indian
Government provided a two billion Indian rupee monetary assistance for
our humanitarian programme.
Q: The media last week reported that the both the British, French
Foreign Secretaries during their discussions with President Mahinda
Rajapaksa requested a ceasefire or resumption of negotiation with the
LTTE. Q: What was their basis for a ceasefire?
A: They were talking about a ceasefire. The reason they adduced was
for the safety of the civilians trapped inside the `No Fire Zone'. Our
point of view was how a Ceasefire can bring benefit to those displaced
people. It is very well clear to us a Ceasefire will not assure the
safety of the people. Even if we assume, the Government will agree for a
Ceasefire what would be the next step? How could it solve the problem?
How could it assure the rescue of the trapped civilians? There was no
plan or at least an idea on post-ceasefire complications.
Q: What is the Government stand on a Ceasefire?
A: A Ceasefire would only benefit the LTTE. We as a country have
firsthand experience on that. Even with under a Ceasefire the people
affected by LTTE atrocities will continue to suffer. During the current
operations the Government extended a Ceasefire for 48 hours but the LTTE
did not let the innocent civilians move out for safety.
With no ceasefire large exodus of civilians started moving out of the
trapped area. With our rescue operations up to now approximately 150,000
civilians escaped from LTTE clutches. We have proved that only through a
rescue operation we can save those civilians trapped inside the `No Fire
Q: How does the Government plan to continue the humanitarian
assistance for the displaced people?
A: As is already known by all, there are numbers of welfare centres
for the displaced people with all basic facilities including education,
health, sanitation, water, food etc. In addition, they have been
relocated in temporary villages to enable them to restart their lives
until their original properties are made safe for habitation. Hence, the
demining process was initiated immediately after those areas were
liberated by the Security Forces. The Government has given access to UN
agencies as well as recognized International Non Governmental
Organizations to assist the Government efforts in rebuilding the lives
of these displaced people. The Humanitarian agencies are given access to
places where the displaced people are registered and screened soon after
they reach the liberated areas. All these activities are conducted
strictly adhering to the International standards and norms to which Sri
Lanka is a signatory. And the entire process is transparent.
Q: How does the Government, assures the safety of the displaced
civilians trapped in the LTTE clutches during the military operations?
A: Declaring a `No Fire Zone' and restricting the use of heavy
weapons are issues we have imposed. No foreign party ever suggested
them. The Government took these decisions to ensure the safety of the
civilians. Well it's a further step taken by the leader of the country.
President Rajapaksa gave a directive to the Security Forces not to fire
using heavy weapons or undertake air strikes. This is to protect the
civilians from getting injured or dead in crossfire. This is a
significant step in the direction of the International Humanitarian law.
We risk the lives of our own soldiers. The Government took this decision
as a precaution to assure the safety of the civilians. We are concerned
more than anybody else about the safety of the civilians. We have
commissioned a passenger ship under the ICRC to enter the `No Fire Zone'
and evacuate the sick and the injured.
Q: What about the request for a third party to discuss with the LTTE
for a negotiation?
A: That We cannot accept. The LTTE will never agree to a discussion
with a third party. With the experience me gathered over the several
rounds of peace talks with the LTTE, we are familiar with their modus
oparendi. Even recently, the UN advised the LTTE to release the
The LTTE did not adhere to. Then the UN told the LTTE to lay down
arms and surrender, which the LTTE did not comply with at all. In this
context, what can a third party do? This would not benefit the country
or the people other than assist the LTTE to drag on this situation for
some more time. To allow a third party to enter into the `No Fire Zone'
the military has to pause their operations and it will certainly cause
more harm to the civilians.
Q: In the Government's point of view is why should the international
community except such pressure on it?
A: Many Western Governments, like UK,USA, Canada, France etc are
imposing such pressure on us, mainly because in the present global
situation they face variety of internal problems.
A considerable percentage of Tamil diaspora is living in these
countries. We saw that they were acting very violently against the Sri
Lankan Government and our representatives there as well.
governments depend largely on their votes. And their political campaigns
also depend on the funding by these communities. If not for any other
hidden agenda, this is the reason why these countries, including of
course the Tamil Diaspora want to save the LTTE leadership. The Tamil
Diaspora's main aim is to save Prabhakaran and his leadership. They put
pressure on Western Governments to push the Sri Lankan Government to
stop the fight against terrorism and rescue these people.
Q: Will the Government continue to send the essential items to the
`No Fire Zone'?
A: Definitely the Government will be sending food and medical items
to the civilians trapped in the `No Fire Zone' though we are well aware
that major part of it is being used by the LTTE! We know that there are
very limited numbers of civilians living inside.
Q: It is a known fact that many LTTE cadres are trying to escape
disguised as civilians. Some surrender while others are identified
during the screening process. What happens to them thereafter?
A: Many LTTE cadres reach the cleared areas in this manner. The
Government and the security forces are well informed on this aspect.
Among them some are either supporters or cadres who received light
training and some are found to be hardcore LTTEers.
We have started rehabilitation camps for these people under the
Commissioner General for Rehabilitation. They will be given vocational
training and rehabilitated cutting them off from their previous terror
activities. For the hardcore cadres, we get detention orders and the
country's legal procedure will be applied.
Most of these people will be rehabilitated, given a vocational
training and sent back to their families. During the process they are
provided with basic facilities, including medical care.
* Govt bound to look after civilian
* People wants an end to terrorist menace.
* Govt's main concern - safety of civilians.
* Ceasefire will not assure safety of
* Ceasefire would only benefit LTTE.
* Temporary villages to enable IDPs to
restart their lives until their original properties are safe for
* We are concerned more than anybody else
about the safety of civilians.
* UN exhorted LTTE to lay down arms and
* The Tamil Diaspora's main aim is to save
Prabhakaran and his cohorts.