Sri Lanka justifies troop presence in former war zones

COLOMBO (TIP): A day after three key operatives of the banned LTTE were killed in a major military operation in Sri Lanka’s north, the government on April 19 justified maintaining troops in the former war zones.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s special envoy on human rights and government minister Mahinda Samarasinghe said Friday’s incident has underlined the need to keep the military on alert. “We were asked and criticized about the presence of the military in the north and the need to scale down its presence by the international governments at the Geneva UN human rights council … We explained to them the need to keep the military going as it was a decision for a sovereign government to take in view of the national security needs,” he said.

“Yesterday’s incident was clear evidence of that,” Samarasinghe said after briefing the outcome in Geneva to the Buddhist high priests in the central town of Kandy on Saturday. The army said three armed suspects who attempted to escape the troops were killed in a cordon and search operation in the area of Padaviya in North Central Province on April 11. This is the biggest security incident in the north since the military brutally crushed the LTTE in 2009, bringing an end to nearly the three-decade-long civil war.

The three had been operating under the directives of the LTTE’s Europe-based leaders — Nediyavan and Vinayagam. Samarasinghe reiterated the call made by Sri Lankan external affairs minister GL Peiris. He said Sri Lanka would not cooperate with the UNHRC in implementing the resolution adopted late March which was aimed at setting up an international investigation on the country’s alleged human rights abuses during the final phase of the war with the LTTE.

“We will not participate as we have no confidence in such a process. We are a government which is committed to achieving reconciliation through credible local mechanisms,” Samarasinghe said. He said Sri Lanka would not give into attempts by the pro- LTTE diaspora to destabilise the country. The Sri Lankan government claimed that pro-LTTE diaspora is moving the Western governments to act against it.

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