Outgoing Army Commander Shantha Kottegoda yesterday accused the LTTE of trying to provoke the military with a series of truce-breaking attacks that killed 12 people over the weekend.Addressing journalists after being accorded a farewell ceremony at Army headquarters, General Kottegoda warned the LTTE that the army could now defeat it, despite repeated failures in the past.
The General who was promoted to this highest rank with his retirement yesterday, said the LTTE had stepped up organised attacks against government forces in the former rebel stronghold of Jaffna in a bid to draw fire from the military.
?I am confident that with the training we have done in the past three years we are better prepared today than we were before the ceasefire,? the General said, referring to the February 2002 ceasefire agreement with the rebels.
?Our troops will be able to fight and defeat them.?
He said the Tigers may resort to more hit-and-run style attacks to minimise losses to their own cadres following a split in the rebel outfit in March last year.
?They could resort to more guerrilla tactics because they may want to retain their cadres,? he said.
General Kottegoda, who had earlier been an advisor to Sri Lanka`s peace negotiators, said the government of President Mahinda Rajapakse, which was elected last month, must also push ahead with moves to try to revive direct talks with the Tigers.
?We have to make a move. We need to take some steps with regard to the peace process,? he said, adding the two sides should be able to discuss the implementation of the ceasefire.
His tough talk came as both the government and the Norwegian-led truce monitoring mission expressed fears for the peace process and efforts to jumpstart talks that have been stalled since April 2003.
President Rajapakse`s government has said it wants a new peace process and to ?revise? the truce, but the Tigers have maintained that any unilateral action on the process is unacceptable.
Despite the truce, 12 people including seven soldiers were killed in the North and East over the weekend, a military official said.
He said troops in those regions as well as other parts were asked to remain on high alert.
A soldier who survived a land-mine attack in the northern Jaffna peninsula on Sunday died yesterday raising the toll among soldiers to seven in the worst attack on the army since the ceasefire went into effect.
?It is obvious that through these violent acts, the LTTE is trying all possible means to provoke troops and create a volatile situation in Jaffna,? military spokesman Nalin Witharanage said in a statement.
?In the wake of these incidents, the security forces and the police will now intensify security duties to ensure law and order prevailed.?