Home International No immediate ban on LTTE, says Rajapaksa

No immediate ban on LTTE, says Rajapaksa

By P.K. Balachandran, IANS

Colombo : Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa Tuesday said that he was not contemplating an immediate ban on the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) even though it has continued its orgy of violence, killing innocent civilians.

“You don’t have to ban them. If necessary, we will, but not now,” Rajapaksa told a media conference here.

However, the government would continue to examine the need for a ban.

“I’ll have to look into it. We’ll wait and see,” he said.

Ever since the Rajapaksa government unilaterally abrogated the ceasefire agreement with the LTTE Jan 3, there has been talk about a re-imposition of the ban on the “terrorist” organisation.

The secretary of defence and the president’s brother, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, had called for a ban in no uncertain terms in several press interviews.

The Rajapaksa government’s most influential political and parliamentary ally, Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), also has been pressing for a ban. The JVP had pressed for an abrogation of the ceasefire agreement and had secured it, giving rise to expectation that it would also succeed in getting the ban through.

In response to speculation that the government might be dragging its feet on this issue because of the international condemnation of the unilateral abrogation of the truce pact, the Sri Lankan president said that his government did not take decisions to meet the concerns of other countries.

“We will go by the interests of Sri Lanka,” he asserted. Rajapaksa rejected the allegation that he had discarded the truce pact in a “hurry” without weighing the pros and cons carefully.

“I did not do it in a hurry. I had been opposing the ceasefire agreement since 2002 when it was signed. It was not discussed by the cabinet of the time. And the executive president (Chandrika Kumaratunga) had not been consulted. The cabinet was only informed after it was signed,” Rajapaksa recalled.

“Even after all that, I did not discard it when I was elected president. I put up with the LTTE’s killings of unarmed soldiers and civilians for months. We went for talks in Geneva and Oslo. We withdrew from the pact only after the LTTE had violated the truce more than 7,000 times,” he pointed out.

Though the president ruled out a ban on the LTTE now, he gave no indication that there might be talks with that organization.

“We do not accept the LTTE as the sole representative of the Tamil people. There are other Tamil groups which we would be talking to,” he said.

Sounding a note of moderation on the controversial and unpopular peace broker, Norway, Rajapaksa said that Oslo could still play a role in peace building in Sri Lanka.

“Any country wanting to play a role in building peace in Sri Lanka will be welcome,” he clarified.

But the international community, foreign governments and rights groups, would have to have zero tolerance for terrorism, the Sri Lankan president said.

“No distinction should be drawn between good terrorists and bad terrorists. Governments cannot say one should negotiate with some terrorists and shun others. Terrorism as such is bad and must be fought,” he said.

Asked if the war that was on was meant to bring about a military solution to the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka, Rajapaksa said he did not believe in a military solution.

“Believe me, I do not believe in a military solution. Ultimately, a solution has to be political and negotiated. Our war is against LTTE terrorism and not the Tamil people,” he said.

“We know that there are Tamil political demands and grievances, and these must be addressed,” the president said.

“In fact, there are demands from every section of society in Sri Lanka – Tamils, Muslims, Burghers and also Sinhalese. All of them must be considered. We cannot have a solution by ignoring the demands of the Sinhalese,” the president asserted.