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Rajapaksa challenges Prabhakaran to direct clash

By P. Karunakharan, IANS,

Colombo : Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa Tuesday challenged the elusive leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) Velupillai Prabhakaran to “clash with him directly” and declared that his government would continue in its bid to flush rebels out of their stronghold in the north.

“I will challenge Prabhakaran to clash with me directly if possible without engaging in a killing spree of targeting innocent civilians, parliamentarians and ministers,” Rajapaksa said after inaugurating the Oluvil port project in eastern Amparai district Tuesday.

Rajapaksa, who is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, has said his ruling coalition “will never backtrack on its journey to liberate innocent civilians” living in the LTTE-held areas in the north.

“As much as the government liberated the people of the east from terrorism and enabled them to enjoy the fruits of freedom, the people of the north would also be given such an opportunity soon,” the state-run Daily News quoted the president as saying in Amparai.

The inauguration of the Oluvil port project comes two days before campaigning ends for the provincial council polls on May 10.

“Now the people of the east should decide whether they should be governed by their own representatives or according to the dictates originating from (the rebel-held) Kilinochchi. On May 10 the people in the east will decide whether they want the development process to continue or whether go back to the clutches of terrorists,” Rajapaksa said.

The main opposition United National Party (UNP) and the Marxist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) have urged the government to disarm pro-government Tamil militant groups in the east to ensure a free and fair election.