Reiterating his commitment to bring the war on LTTE terrorism to a successful conclusion, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse yesterday declared that President Mahinda Rajapakse was solidly behind the military effort.
There is absolutely no dispute over the need to defeat the LTTE militarily, he said, asserting that a halt to operations would only give the LTTE an opportunity to regroup again.
`There is no other option but to destroy the common enemy,` he said, expressing confidence that the ongoing hullabaloo over a range of issues with the focus on human rights and press freedom would not derail the efforts to further weaken the LTTE.
The president understands the undeniable need to tackle the military threat posed by the LTTE, he said, vowing to resist any attempt to give a lifeline to the LTTE.
`But that doesn`t mean the government was not interested in a political solution. We are unreservedly committed to a political solution and accept the right of all Tamil political parties and groups take part in the process,` he said.
The outspoken official said that the president very clearly articulated this position in his Friday speech to the 96th sessions of the ILO in Geneva.
It is no secret that the sharp differences between defence and foreign ministries contributed heavily to SLFP heavyweight Mangala Samaraweera`s break-up with the ruling coalition, well informed sources said.
The defence secretary dismissed the opinion that the LTTE should be given special status. `They may have forced the TULF/TNA to accept it as the sole representative of the Tamil speaking people. But that position is irrelevant as far as the government is concerned.`
Rajapakse said that the international community too would not accept the Tigers` so-called special status.
In an interview with The Sunday Island, after his return from Maha Oya in the East and Vavuniya last Thursday, Rajapakse expressed satisfaction that the forces were on target. He praised the elite Special Task Force (STF) for professionally handling the resettlement process in the Batticaloa district.
In fact, the international community has been impressed with the ongoing resettlement process, he said. `They have been given access to these areas and their response was encouraging.`
Claiming that the resettlement process was on track in the East, he urged political parties to resume political work in the region. `The LTTE has been brought to its knees in the East. They may set off a claymore mine, fire at a foot patrol and explode a vehicle bomb or target a politician or a security official in Colombo. But that would not offset the loss of their bases in the East.`
In fact, the change of situation in the east, Rajapakse, said had made the Oslo-arranged CFA irrelevant. `We no longer recognize an area under LTTE control in the East,` he said, adding that the army was in the final phase of its action against LTTE units holed up the Thoppigala jungles.
`That`s the undeniable truth,` he asserted.
He urged UNP and Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe to share his experience with the government. As far as LTTE terrorism was concerned, Wickremesinghe has had more experience than any other leader, he said.
Unfortunately the present UNP leadership had conveniently forgotten two critical events - the terrorists` decision to quit the peace process during Wickremesinghe`s tenure as prime minister and denying of the northern Tamils the right to vote at the last presidential election in November 2005.
The LTTE never had permanent friends. In fact, they had only permanent interests and they would do anything regardless of consequences to advance their course, the secretary said.
Fielding questions, he asserted that the war on terrorism here or overseas could not be conducted according to the whims and fancies of the press. `We will not succumb to hostile press coverage or bent backwards to appease them,` he said.
Had they bothered to investigate the amount and the quality of information received by security forces and police from Tamil civilians, particularly in the northern and eastern provinces, they would know what the civilians wanted, he said.
`They want us to wipe out the LTTE. They don`t want to prolong the agony,` he said.
He expressed his gratitude to Tamil youth working alongside with security forces and police. `Let us identify the common enemy and liquidate it.`
The champions of human rights would undermine government efforts purely due to monetary reasons and fear. Had they genuinely believed in democracy, human rights and the freedom to dissent they would have vociferously protested against the LTTE winning recognition as the sole representative of the Tamil people and the attempt to blame claymore attacks on the civilian community or forcibly train a civilian militia.
He strongly rejected accusations that the government had authorized death squads. ``Why should we engage in any activity that would help the enemy? Who gains by the display of bodies?``
Referring to a recent Tony Blair interview (The Island-World View of June 14) Rajapakse said that he would not be deterred by press attacks. On one hand the British encourage the local (Sri Lankan) press to target the government on a range of issues, particularly press freedom and human rights.
``But read what Blair has said,`` he remarked. ``Unfortunately the Sinhala press does not give adequate coverage to foreign news.``
In a bitter parting swipe at newspapers and television, Blair said that the media behaved like a `feral beast, just tearing people and reputations to bits. He called for new curbs on the media after warning that increasingly sensational news coverage threatened politicians` `capacity to take the right decisions for the country.`
The Colombo-based foreign press or locals working for international wire services (not all) were no exception.
`I won`t hesitate to tell the truth,` he said, emphasizing that he would not be intimidated by the press whatever they report. As end of the day, all except a few madmen do not accept the need to destroy the LTTE,`` he said.