Insisting that the minorities of this country should not make undue demands, Army Chief Sarath Fonseka yesterday said he believed the ongoing war would end in less than a year.
`The national leadership basically is determined to solve this problem. The task given to us is to eradicate terrorism. If we have the same commitment one more year, the LTTE`s destiny is, I think, decided,` Lt.-Gen. Fonseka said in a candid interview with Canada s
National Post newspaper. He said the war was driven by Tamils who want a homeland and have chosen Sri Lanka as the place. But the country`s Sinhalese majority would never allow the Tamil minority to break the country apart.
Lt.-Gen. Fonseka is a competitive swimmer who won the U. S. Green Card lottery but has remained in Sri Lanka, heading the army he has served for three decades. He is lucky to be alive. On April 25, 2006, a suicide bomber attacked his limousine in Colombo. He was seriously injured in the assassination attempt and nine others were killed. The Tamil Tigers never claim responsibility for such attacks but were almost certainly behind it.
`I strongly believe that this country belongs to the Sinhalese but there are minority communities and we treat them like our people,` he says.
`We being the majority of the country, 75%, we will never give in and we have the right to protect this country.
`We are also a strong nation. They can live in this country with us. But they must not try to, under the pretext of being a minority, demand undue things.`
He dismisses concerns by international human rights groups about the conduct of his forces, saying that while civilian deaths are inevitable in war, relatively few non-combatants have died in the Sri Lankan conflict.
The Tigers central problem is manpower, he says. During the current phase of the civil war, the Sri Lankan forces have killed 8,000 rebel fighters in the north and 2,000 in the east, while another 1,000 have been killed in air strikes, he says.
According to the army`s calculations, that leaves the Tamil Tigers with no more than 4,000 remaining cadres, while the Sri Lankan forces have 250,000 men and women, and plenty of weaponry.
`So it`s a matter of time,` Lt.-Gen. Fonseka says.
But the Tigers are well-armed they have ammunition, artillery, mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, multi-barreled rocket launchers, anti-tank weapons and mines. `Every inch is booby-trapped in the jungle. De-mining those areas will take a minimum of 20 years,` he says.
Meanwhile speaking at a book launch of senior journalist Tissa Ravindra Perera at the National Library and Documentation Services Board, yesterday, the Army Chief also said that the military campaign would continue until the country was completely liberated from the Tamil Tigers: We will not stop the ongoing military campaign until we liberate our motherland from the LTTE terrorists, he said.
Army Commander said that LTTE s administrative town Kilinochchi would come under army fire from next week onwards, with further advances into the rebel-held town.
The Army will fire its first shot towards the Kilinochchi town by next week, as the forces are some four kilometres away from Kilinochchi town, said Lt. General Fonseka adding: We can even see some of the buildings in the town.
He said that LTTE Leader Prabhakaran and his subordinates continued to boast of their military prowess: They even said that the fourth Eelam war would come to Colombo. But now we can see our forces taking the war to Kilinochchi and now the LTTE Leader is like an animal trapped in a cage, he said.
Speaking further, Gen. Fonseka said that when he commenced of the liberation of the east in 2006, some had said, Gen Fonseka can t do it. But we have proved we can, and our forces are near the heart of Kilinochchi, he said.
We have done our duty during last two years as promised, Lt. Gen Fonseka said, adding, we need the support of the media institutes, for the sake of the country and to show we are strong enough to stand by ourselves.
Speaking at the occasions, Air Force Commander Roshan Goonetilake said that the Air Force would continue to hunt for the LTTE Leader: We are getting intelligence information about the whereabouts of Prabhakaran we will continue with our raids, targeting those hideouts.
At the event, Wanni Satana, the third book of senior defence journalist Perera, was launched. The author had published two books earlier -- about the ongoing military campaigns. The publisher of the book is Phan Publisher.