Govt. warns of move to have Tigers posing as civilians freed
Posted on August 17th, 2009

by Shamindra Ferdinando Courtesy The Island

Dismissing UNP leader Ranil WickremesingheƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s criticism that nearly 280,000 displaced persons had been held at camps in the Vavuniya region against their wish, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa accused the Opposition of playing politics with essentially a security issue.

The Defence Secretary warned that LTTE terrorists masquerading as civilians, now taking refuge among the displaced, could resume attacks if the government gave in to internal and external pressure and released them. He said that there were a lot of explosives, arms and ammunition buried in the Vanni, particularly in the eastern part. Had they been given an opportunity to lay their hands on them, they would resume attacks, he said.

In an interview with The Island, over the weekend, he said that the opposition and a section of the press had conveniently forgotten that the LTTE collapsed a few months ago. He said that there had not been a single attack since the army had wiped out the LTTE leadership on the banks of the Nanthikadal Lagoon last May due to existing security measures. “If we loosen up security measures and bombs starts exploding, the same crowd will demand the resignation of the government,” he said.

Wickremesinghe recently urged the government to expedite the release of civilians and also inform Parliament of the steps taken in this regard. Addressing UNP organisers, the UNP leader, flanked by his deputy Karu Jayasuriya and UNP General Secretary Tissa Attanayake, strongly criticised the government for detaining innocent people.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ SLFP dissident Mangala Samaraweera, MP recently joined what the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (Mahajana Wing) called a collective of concerned citizens to make representations to Indian External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna regarding Sri Lankan IDPs. The group urged India to pressure the Sri Lankan government to ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”demilitarise administration of all IDP camps and the rehabilitation process.ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢

The Defence Secretary said that after failing to throw a lifeline to the LTTE, the Opposition and a section of the international community had now launched a fresh campaign to exploit the IDPs situation. “This is most likely to be their last triumph card,”he said pointing out that recent statements attributed to various individuals and organisations had shed light on their plan.

He said that those who did not utter a word when the LTTE held over 300,000 people at gun point on the Vanni eastern front were now interfering with a legitimate government operation.

Recalling resettlement of the displaced in the Eastern Province as the army was battling to liberate the region, he said that a section of the international community and the Opposition strongly opposed Sri LankaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s efforts to expedite the process. The resettlement of people in the East had been subject to UNHCR conditions, he said adding that the government had carried out the operation in keeping with the UN agencyƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s standards. Now that the LTTE had been wiped out, ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”international busybodies and their local henchmenƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ were playing a different tune, he said. According to the UNHCR, the resettlement of people in a particular area should be preceded by clearing of mines and also provision of water and other basic facilities required to recommence their livelihood.

The Defence Secretary said that though some had forgotten, the government could not ignore that the Vanni population had been in the clutches of the LTTE for almost 30 years. He said that there could be many LTTE sympathisers and operatives masquerading as ordinary civilians accommodated at welfare camps. Acknowledging shortcomings at welfare camps, he said that President Mahinda Rajapaksa had wanted to provide the best possible housing facilities for the IDPs but those foreigners who now shed tears for them had opposed that. The PresidentƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s directive followed after his visit to a Chinese province devastated by an earthquake, he said. Although the President believed that every effort should be made to provide housing facilities, others opposed the move fearing an effort was being made to settle IDPs permanently outside their villages. Others had gone to the extent of claiming that the proposed housing units would be handed over to Sinhalese once the Tamils returned to their villages, he said.

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