Be defensive during Sinhala, Tamil New Year: Rajapaksa tells troops (Lead)

April 12th, 2009 - 4:36 pm ICT by IANS  

By P. Karunakharan
Colombo, April 12 (IANS) Confident of defeating the Tamil Tigers in the near future, Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapaksa Sunday ordered his troops to adhere to “defensive operations” against the rebels during the Sinhala and Tamil New Year April 14, a statement from his office said.

The Sinhala and Tamil New Year is a national festival in the island nation.

A statement from the President’s Office said that President Rajapaksa “is deeply conscious of the need to give the civilian population entrapped as hostages by the ruthless actions of the LTTE, the opportunity to celebrate these festivities in a suitable atmosphere and to have uninhibited freedom of movement from the No Fire Zone to the cleared areas”.

“With this objective in view, His Excellency has directed the armed forces of the State to restrict their operations during the New Year to those of a defensive nature,” the statement said.

“In the true spirit of the season, it is time for the LTTE to acknowledge its military defeat and lay down its weapons and surrender,” Rajapaksa, who is also the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, said in the statement, adding that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) must permanently renounce terrorism and violence.

The president’s instruction to go on a defensive mode come amid mounting international concern for the safety of thousands of civilians trapped in a small strip of coastal land in the island’s north-eastern Mullaitivu district.

The UN has said that over 100,000 civilians were “trapped in the 14 sq km no-fire zone”, while Sri Lanka’s donor co-Chairs stressed “the importance of a humanitarian pause” in the fighting to ensure the safety of the civilians in the war-zone.

“Large numbers of civilians already have been killed or wounded. Following reports that LTTE fighters now have been pushed almost entirely into this zone, many more are at risk of losing their lives,” representative of the UN secretary-general on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons Walter Kalin said in a statement

The LTTE has lost the cream of its fighting cadres, including a dozen battle-hardened leaders in the fight for Puthukkudiyiruppu, the last bastion where the rebels have maintained several military and naval bases and armoury over the past three decades.

Killing over 525 LTTE cadres in 72 hours of fierce battle for Puthukkudiyiruppu, the military said that the troops were “close to last leg of the war” against the LTTE which has been fighting for a separate state over the past quarter century.

There is no immediate response from the LTTE in this regard.

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