Monday, February 2, 2009

"Act responsibly or be chased out,’’ Gota tells BBC & envoys

Colombo (AP) - Sri Lanka warned Western diplomats, foreign journalists and aid groups Sunday that they would be "chased" out of the country if they appear to favor the Tamil Tiger rebels.

Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa singled out the ambassadors of Switzerland and Germany, and television networks CNN, BBC and Al-Jazeera in his criticism of foreigners, accusing them of being biased.

Rajapaksa said certain foreign media reports were damaging the security forces at a time they were "dealing the final death blow" to the Tigers.

His ire appears to stem from concern expressed by the international community that the government is not doing enough to extricate civilians trapped in the fighting between the military and the Tamil rebels in the north.

In an interview published in the independent Sunday Island newspaper, Rajapaksa said the three TV networks were sensationalizing civilian hardships by telecasting video clips from a Web site run by the rebels. The ambassadors were trying to create panic, he was quoted as saying.

"They will be chased away (if they try) to give a second wind" to the separatist Tamil Tigers, said Rajapaksa, who is the brother of President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The government says the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, as the rebels are formally known, are using civilians as human shields, a charge denied by the insurgents.

"It was irresponsible (of the foreign media) not to talk about civilians held in the war zone by the LTTE while making comments that only helped the Tigers," Rajapaksa said.