Sri Lanka says plea for truce looks ‘LTTE orchestrated’

October 16th, 2008 - 10:50 am ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Oct 16 (IANS) Sri lanka said Thursday that the demand from political parties in Tamil Nadu for a ceasefire in the island nation appeared to be orchestrated by the Tamil Tigers.In the most high profile reaction after MPs from Tamil Nadu’s ruling DMK and its allies threatened to quit parliament if New Delhi did not put pressure on Colombo to go for a truce by Oct 29, Sri Lanka Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa refused to halt the military campaign against the Tigers.

And in remarks, clearly aimed at Tamil Nadu’s politicians, Rajapaksa also said in an interview: “Everyone needs to remember that Sri Lankan Tamils are Sri Lankan citizens. It is our duty to solve their problems.”

The Sri Lankan foreign ministry has said that the resolution adopted by political parties in Chennai Tuesday was an “internal matter of India”.

Rajapaksa, a brother of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, said there were no grounds to end the military push against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), aimed at wresting territory the group controls in the north. The fighting has led to international concerns about civilian suffering.

“There must be a reason for ceasefire,” Rajapaksa told IANS over telephone from Colombo.

“This looks like a LTTE organised campaign because we know how the LTEE has used the ceasefire agreement (in the past).

“Another ceasefire means extension of suffering (for Sri Lanka). If somebody really wants to help the Tamil people, they can support Sri Lanka to defeat the LTTE, defeat terrorism.

“What will happen if there is another ceasefire? Again we will face the same thing that has happened for 28 years. That will be very unfair.”

Rajapaksa’s reference was to previous ceasefires that critics say the LTTE used to strengthen itself and resume its war for an independent homeland in Sri Lanka’s north and east.

The DMK and its allies in Tamil Nadu, which is separated from Sri Lanka by a strip of sea, have accused Colombo’s largely Sinhalese security forces of killing Tamil civilians and of firing at Indian fishermen in the sea.

Rajapaksa did not talk about civilian casualties but spoke at some length about the Indian fishermen who are primarily from Tamil Nadu.

Charging political parties in Tamil Nadu with ignorance, he said Colombo allowed Indian fishermen to “cross the international line and fish in our waters. On the contrary, our fishermen face curbs in Indian waters”.

“The only thing we have told them is not to come close to our navy camps. And to avoid the sea on days when we have troop movement. This happens once a week or once in two weeks.”

He said while Sri Lanka did arrest some Indian fishermen, “they are released at the earliest after being warned. But if Sri Lankan fishermen get arrested in India, they spent three to six months in prison”.

“We have not fired at Indian fishermen. On several occasions, however, the LTTE has fired on them. Officials in Tamil Nadu have confirmed this,” he added.

Rajapaksa said New Delhi had not taken up with Colombo the Tamil Nadu demand for a ceasefire in Sri Lanka. “The Indian government knows what is going on, how serious we are to solve the problem.”

Will President Rajapaksa want to brief Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi and former chief minister J. Jayalalitha about the Sri Lanka situation?

“If they are willing, he will talk. If they want to talk, he will talk. There is no problem in talking to them. But everyone needs to remember that Sri Lankan Tamils are Sri Lankan citizens. It is our duty to solve their problems. It is our duty to solve our problems. Everyone must remember that.”

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