Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Sri Lanka gov't not pursuing military solution to conflict

COLOMBO, Jan. 22 -- Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapakse said Tuesday that his government was not pursuing a military effort to end the island's armed conflict despite his decision to unilaterally abrogate the truce agreement.

"I do not believe in a military solution. This needs a political solution," Rajapakse told local and foreign journalists at his heavily guarded official residence.

The president said his government's decision to abrogate the Norwegian brokered 2002 ceasefire with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) had come after careful study of the rebels' behavior.

"I watched it over two years. When they started killing civilians I thought I must take action," Rajapakse said, referring to his government's pull out on Jan. 16 from the ceasefire agreement.

He said the present military campaign against the rebels was not meant to gain the rebel controlled territory in the Northern Province.

"We are only hitting back at them," said the president, adding that terrorism must be eliminated before a political solution could be offered to the Tamil minority.

He said he believed that the already approved 13th amendment to the Sri Lankan constitution which paved the way for the province based unit of devolution was the best solution to be offered as a solution.

He was waiting for the All Party Representatives Committee to come out with its draft proposal later this week.

On the present security instability in the southern parts of the island as a result of a military campaign by the LTTE, he said it was a rebel tactic to divert the military's attention on the thrust in the north, but his government was prepared to face the rebel threats.

At least 47 people including three policemen have been killed in the southeastern Moneragala district since the ceasefire agreement officially ended on Jan. 16.

He dismissed accusations of human rights violations against his government as exaggerations and stressed that his government would not condone any rights violations.

The LTTE has been fighting since 1983 for an independent state for Sri Lanka's ethnic Tamil minority in the north and east claiming discrimination at the hands of Sinhalese-dominated governments.

More than 70,000 people have been killed in one of the world's longest running ethnic conflict.

by Du Guodong, Xinhua