Rajapaksa urges global community to pressurise LTTE (Lead)

April 18th, 2009 - 11:08 pm ICT by IANS  

Colombo, April 18 (IANS) Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa Saturday urged the international community to exert pressure on the Tamil Tigers to free civilians, rather than asking him to pause the military operation to defeat terrorism in the island nation.
“The LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) has been holding thousands of civilians hostage in the Wanni. I ask the international community to put pressure on LTTE to give this people freedom for just one hour, then they all will come over the government-held areas,” Rajapaksa told a group of doctors and farmers here.

The remarks have come amid mounting international pressure for a longer pause in the fighting in the northeastern Mullaitivu district for the civilians to ensure their safety exit.

“Instead of asking me to stop the ongoing humanitarian operation, the international organisation should exert pressure on LTTE (to free civilians),” a statement from the President’s Office quoted Rajapaksa as saying at the meeting in his tightly guarded official residence, Temple Trees.

Rajapaksa Thursday paid a surprise visit to Kilinochchi and addressed troops who captured the region from the Tamil Tigers in January, ending a decade of the rebel rule.

Rajapaksa, who is also the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, is the first leader of state to have visited Kilinochchi, after first prime minister D.S. Senanayake who had toured the area in the early 1950s.

The military, which claims to have cornered the LTTE into a 14 sq km of coastal strip in Mullaitivu, says it is close to finally vanquishing the once formidable Tamil Tigers.

Rajapaksa said that what was now left “for the Tigers who had pushed the country into the brink of collapse during the past three decades is to commit suicide by either swallowing cyanide (capsule) or jumping into the lagoon”.

Meanwhile, the BBC Saturday reported that Sri Lanka’s Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse has rejected a fresh appeal by the UN to give civilians more time to leave a safe zone.

The government’s decision to reject the UN appeal came after a meeting between Vijay Nambiar, chief of staff of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and senior government officials in Colombo earlier this week.

“I told him (Mr. Nambiar) that we cannot extend our decision to restrict offensive military operations because there was no result during the previous halt in the fighting,” the defence secretary, who is also the brother of President Rajapaksa, has been quoted as saying by the BBC.

He has also said that The Tamil Tigers did not meet international demands to release the civilians during the pause in the fighting that ended on Tuesday night.

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