|Tamils are our people: Mahinda Rajapaksa to India|
|Friday, 14 November 2008|
NEW DELHI: President Mahinda Rajapaksa Thursday told Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh the Sri Lankan Government was ready to talk peace with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) at any time if the latter lays down arms. In bilateral talks with the Indian Prime Minister on the sidelines of the BIMSTEC Summit, President Rajapaksa said his primary aim was to eradicate terrorism and create a country where all communities can live in peace. The President said his government is fully committed to fulfil the humanitarian needs of the Tamil community living in the North and East. The President told the Indian Prime Minister the Tamil people are very much part of his responsibility as Head of State and Government and he would take all measures for their safety, security and welfare. "The Tamils are our people; we have been taking care of them and we will continue to take care," Rajapaksa said.
This was the first meeting between Singh and Rajapaksa following the uproar by political parties in Tamil Nadu, including the UPA ally DMK, over the Sri Lankan military offensive, which they had pressed New Delhi to intervene in and stop.
Prime Minister Singh had told President Rajapaksa to ensure the safety and welfare of ethnic Tamils, emphasising that the interests of innocent civilians should be protected, even while dealing with terrorism.
Appreciating India's efforts to provide humanitarian assistance to the displaced Tamils, Rajapaksa said he would not let the conflict be passed on to the future generations.
Having taken note of the Resolution adopted by the Tamil Nadu State Assembly on November 12 calling for a ceasefire in Sri Lanka, President Rajapaska emphasised that he and his administration has always been for a political solution.
It is the LTTE that repeatedly violated its obligations and embarked on a path of conflict and terror, the President said drawing attention to the past track record of the LTTE using the ceasefire to regroup and re-arm. “They are not serious about a political solution,” he said, adding that the government would only talk to the outfit if it first lays down arms.
“As we liberated the people in the East from terrorism their counterparts in the North too would be rescued. The war against terrorism would be prosecuted as planned,” the President reiterated.
After the bilateral talks with the Indian Prime Minister, the President, addressing the media, said the Sri Lankan Government is fully committed to safeguard the rights of the Tamil community. “The Tamil people are my concern. It is my responsibility to look after my Tamil brethren,” he said, adding that the youth in the Eastern Province who were under the LTTE jackboot for years, have today embraced democracy.
A hard core LTTE leader in the East has become a member of the Sri Lankan Parliament today, the President pointed out.
Rajapaksa also charged that Prabhakaran of exporting terrorism.
Separately, President Rajapaksa told leaders attending the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation Summit (BIMSTEC) that Sri Lanka believed that the underlying causes being exploited by the LTTE in seeking legitimacy for its operations should be dealt with politically.
He said that Sri Lanka wholeheartedly supported the convention on cooperation in combating international terrorism, organised crime and illicit drug trafficking, as an important and vital milestone in efforts to counter terrorism.
“For more than two decades, Sri Lanka has been facing a tremendous challenge to its democratic way of life through the barbaric actions of a terrorist group, the LTTE. There is no doubt that such groups have to be dealt with militarily. At the same time, Sri Lanka believes that any underlying causes, exploited by the terrorists in an attempt to gain legitimacy for their operations, should be dealt with politically. I wish to assure this august gathering that we are firmly on the path to a political solution,” President Rajapaksa told the summit which was attended by, among others, Indian Premier Manmohan Singh.
Rajapaksa said terrorist groups were able to sustain themselves through illegal fundraising, narcotics and people trafficking, money laundering using international networks, and arms and ammunition smuggling, including through the sea routes in the Bay of Bengal.
The President urged the leaders to consider setting up a mechanism to effectively police the seas off the Bay of Bengal to deny the terrorists mobility and connectivity. Rajapaksa said that, while the BIMSTEC nations had constructively and prudently engaged in the process of globalisation, the economic challenges faced by their major trading partners would inevitably have some impact on the pace of growth of the BIMSTEC nations.“The situation has, therefore, made all of us very much aware of the protection that regional self-reliance can afford against global economic uncertainties. Our host, India, with its vast capacity and economic potential, can indeed serve as an engine, driving and guiding us to withstand the fallout from the global crisis, while ushering in prosperity to our region,” President Rajapaksa said. He said achieving energy security had come to the forefront of the global agenda, and posed a tremendous challenge, particularly to developing countries.
“Our efforts at developing alternative forms of energy -- such as solar, wind and bio-fuels -- for domestic consumption and for use by industry, must remain paramount. However, we do not support the use of arable land to produce bio-fuels to drive cars. As the lead country for BIMSTEC cooperation in technology, Sri Lanka urges that the highest priority be assigned to the BIMSTEC initiatives for the establishment of the Energy Centre and the Trans Power Exchange and Development Project,” he said.
(Courtesy: South Asian Media)
|Last Updated ( Thursday, 23 July 2009 )|
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