Rajapaksa unveils budget, asks LTTE to lay down arms

November 6th, 2008 - 5:18 pm ICT by IANS  

Colombo, Nov 6 (IANS) Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa Thursday unveiled next year’s budget that proposes to hike defence spending by nearly seven percent, demanding that the Tamil Tigers surrender their weapons to avoid making the military do so.This is the fourth budget to be presented by President Rajapaksa, who is also the minister of finance, after he was elected to office November 2005.

“Even at this decisive moment, I request the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) terrorists to lay down their weapons and enter the democratic process. If they do not do so, our troops will take steps to bring them to their knees,” Rajapaksa, also the minister of defence and commander-in-chief of the armed force, said while making the budget speech.

According to provisional figures presented to parliament in early October, the government plans to raise defence spending to a record of 177.1 billion rupees (approx 1.6 billion dollars) in 2009 from 166.44 billion rupees in 2008.

Insisting that the military onslaught would “clear the (island’s) north from the LTTE like in the east, President Rajapaksa said the provincial council election would be held (in the north also) to restore democracy”.

He said that his coalition government had taken steps to rehabilitate guerrillas surrendering to the government.

Special security arrangements are in place in and around parliament for the unveiling of the budget. Additional troops were deployed on roads leading to parliament at Sri Jayawardanapura, around six kilometers east of Colombo.

In his budget speech, President Rajapaksa charged that some anti-Sri Lanka elements were engaging in conspiracy “trying to portray our country as one that violates the human rights and disrespects democracy.

“Some non-government organisations (NGOs) are engaged in a malicious campaign to discredit this government as an anti-democratic, militaristic and corrupted one. They are trying to prevent the country from benefiting from the international trade concessions and development assistance by trying to discredit the pride of this country and the government,” he said.

“But all these allegations are untrue and our people have clearly understood the motives behind these elements. The people expressed their unreserved support to the government by voting our party at the recently concluded north-central and Uva provincial polls,” he pointed out.

The budget presentation came at a time when the government troops claimed to have made multi-pronged advancement successfully towards the LTTE’s “administrative capital” Kilinochchi in the north.

The military brass claimed last week that troops were operating just few kilometers away from Kilinochchi town, 354 km from Colombo.

The LTTE has been fighting against the Sri Lankan state to carve out a separate state for Tamils in the northern and eastern parts of the island for a quarter century.

Thousands have died in escalating fighting since late 2005.

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