|I remain ready to talk to the LTTE - President Rajapaksa
November 26, 2006- 12.30 GMT
"I have always said I am ready for negotiations with the LTTE. I have said so earlier and I say so today, too. In fact in my first statement on assuming office as President I invited the LTTE for negotiations. But their response was to begin attacking unarmed members of the security forces and civilians, from about a week after I made that request. They have continuedgs almost daily since then," said Presidentking to Indian journalists at the Rural Litigation & Empowerment Centre, at Dehradun where laid the foundation stone for the Indo-Sri Lanka Human Right Centre for SAARC today (Nov. 26. 06).
Answering questions from media persons President Rajapaksa said that despite this wave of violence by the LTTE, the Government did not take any retaliatory action, but showed great patience and restraint, which was commended by the world. The first retaliation by the armed forces took place only after an LTTE suicide killer attacked the Army Commander in April this year. After that, in July this year the LTTE blocked the Mavil Aru anicut cutting off water for drinking and irrigation to nearly 20,000, people, mainly cultivators in the East. "I had to ask the armed forces to open the anicut, as a humanitarian gesture and to defend the rights of the citizens.
The President also explained that after blockage of Mavil Aru, the LTTE had moved beyond its Forward Defence Lines at Muhamalai, and attacked the armed forces there, moving nearly three kilometers beyond their lines. The army had to repulse that move.
Answering questions whether Sri Lanka had he would ask the Indian Prime Minister for joint patrolling of the sea north of Sri Lanka by India and Sri Lanka, President Rajapaksa, and whether any such request had been made to India, President Rajapaksa said, no such request had been made. What he would request from the Indian Prime Minister was to work out a method of safeguarding the waters North of Sri Lanka from the threats of the LTTE. He said any increased strength of the LTTE's Sea Tigers was not only a threat to Sri Lanka, but to India, the other countries of the region. It was also a threat to international peace.
President Rajapaksa said there was no specific agenda for his discussions later this week with the Indian Prime Minister. He looked forward to the meeting to help explain Sri Lanka's position on current developments. "We always valued our friendship with India and our discussion will be based on that understanding," he said.
Responding to questions as to when the Government would lift the blockade of Jaffna and open the A9 route, President Rajapaksa said there was no blockade to Jaffna. The A9 route was open up to Muhamalai. It is closed only from there as the LTTE was attacking the security forces from there. The
government was taking adequate steps to increase food and other essential supplies to Jaffna. He said there was a great deal of misinformation about the situation in Jaffna, particularly by some political parties in Tamilnadu. Most of what they said was not based on a correct assessment of
In response to questions about reports about the security forces being involved in the recruitment of child soldiers, the President said that was a ridiculous allegation. "To say that our forces are doing this is a joke. In fairness to the LTTE, even they have so far never said that the Government or the security forces were engaged in such work. I totally reject this as a baseless allegation," he said.
Asked by a journalist whether Sri Lanka wanted international military assistance to help it by ending troops to fight the LTTE, President Rajapaksa said there was no such need. "Our troops are capable of doing that."
When asked how India could help, the President said that India could help in many ways. It could help prevent the LTTE getting funds, smuggling arms and other illegal activities.