President says truce holds, warns LTTE

By Iqbal Athas

President Mahinda Rajapaksa has declared that the ceasefire is still in place and his Government respected it but warned Tiger guerrillas his patience should not be misconstrued as weakness. He warned that if the LTTE insists on continuing its attacks, he would have to defend the country.

His comments, in the wake of Thursday’s Sea Tiger attack on a Navy flotilla, came in an exclusive interview with The Sunday Times.

Accusing the LTTE of violating the ceasefire on a number of occasions, President Rajapaksa admitted the security forces too had been blamed for a lesser number of violations. “Can any of these be compared with the attack on the Army Commander, the attack on a naval convoy on Thursday or the killing of then Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar?” he asked.

President Rajapaksa said the people have given him a solemn mandate to protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka. “I have to and I will continue to defend my people whether they are living in the south, north, east or west,” he said.

Pointing out that he would not waver in his commitment to the people from all parts of the nation, Mr. Rajapaksa said honourable peace could not be achieved easily. He said for the sake of the country people would have to bear some hardships.

President Rajapaksa’s remarks came as defence and security authorities examined tougher measures to strengthen security countrywide in the wake of LTTE attacks. Though two of their major offensives—an attempt to kill Army Commander Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka and attack a passenger ferry carrying more than 710 Army, Navy, Police and Air Force personnel—failed, state intelligence agencies have reported that the guerillas are poised to continue their campaign of escalated violence.

President Rajapaksa defended the Air Force attacks in the Trincomalee district. “We carried out a limited operation in Sampur. That came after the LTTE attacked the Army Headquarters on April 25 and attempted to assassinate our Army Commander and the simultaneous attack on the Navy in Trincomalee. I have to make sure such dastardly attacks are not repeated.”
President Rajapaksa said “I have the fullest confidence in the capability of our armed forces and the police. But that does not mean we do not accept the ceasefire.”

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