President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Tuesday (22) said that some of the self-styled human rights champions had the audacity to call the killing of hardcore LTTE terrorist Thamilselvan in a SriLanka Air Force raid an attack on the peace process.
Such criticism was part of their strategy to force Sri Lanka to call off its battle against LTTE terrorism, the President told the annual Convocation of Sir John Kotelawala Defence University (KDU) at Temple Trees, where the conferment of Bachelors and Masters degrees on 51 SLA, 23 SLN, 12 SLAF and 4 (three from the Maldives and one from Nepal) took place.
President Rajapaksa alleged that those who had backed the LTTE’s cause were still active and posed a serious threat to Sri Lanka’s post-war recovery process. He urged the armed forces to remain alert to the persistent threat though the LTTE’s military muscle had been neutralised.
A pair of jets bombed Thamilselvan’s hideout in Kilinochchi in the first week of November 2007 within two weeks of the devastating LTTE raid on Anuradhapura airbase.
President Rajapaksa alleged that the LTTE had the backing of certain individuals, various organisations and political parties.
Responding to criticism of the conduct of the Sri Lankan military by a section of the international community, the Commander-in-Chief recalled the circumstances under which his government had moved essential items to the Jaffna peninsula, Jaffna islands and Mullaitivu at the height of the war. Having failed to secure an international guarantee for the protection of food ships, the government had shouldered the responsibility of conducting the humanitarian operations, the President said. Many of those who had benefited from the government’s humanitarian efforts had now conveniently forgotten the situation at that, he said.
The President emphasised the need for the military to be aware of the threat emanating from external elements due to Sri Lanka’s strategic position in the Indian Ocean.
The President said, “As you have received higher education, unlike those trained in the handling of weapons, you should be able to comprehend the ground situation here and rapidly changing economic and political scenes at global level. You should be aware of the current focus on the Asia Pacific region.”
President Rajapaksa emphasised the importance of those holding command positions at all levels to be disciplined. Those holding junior ranks and ordinary soldiers didn’t like to carry out orders given by an undisciplined senior, he asserted, while warning that the failure on their part would bring them to ridicule in the eyes of their juniors. The President urged the newcomers to earn the respect of those under their command.
Commenting on LTTE fund raising operations during the conflict, the President said, “They spent money to acquire arms, ammunition and equipment. They had to maintain a large fighting cadre and then look after the children of those sacrificing their lives for their macabre cause. But today, what they raised abroad is spent on an anti-Sri Lankan campaign. Unlike those bogus human rights champions, we never deprived civilians of essential items. We paid the salaries of those public servants serving in areas under LTTE control. We in fact went to the extent of paying pensioners living in areas outside our areas, whereas the LTTE maximises its resources against the state.”
The President said there would not be a sharp drop in defence expenditure in the aftermath of the war. Of the staggering sum of Rs. 229 bn allocated for defence, Rs. 197 bn would be spent on paying salaries of those serving the defence forces and other payments as well as welfare, he said. Funds once made available to procure, arms, ammunition and equipment were now primarily used to uplift the standard of the military. The President explained measures taken to support the services, those wounded in battle and families experiencing economic difficulties.
He also discussed ongoing efforts to haul Sri Lanka up before an international war crimes tribunal over accountability issues, while referring to attempts made during his visits to the UK, USA and Australia to indict him. The President said that he didn’t consider such action as personal attacks on him, but targeting the country on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations made by the LTTE.
The President explained the LTTE strategy during and after the war. “During the war, the LTTE took refuge among the civilians and attacked us. But in the post-war era, they exploited human rights to target us.” Referring to the recently concluded ‘White flag’ case, the President alleged that former Army Commander’s unsubstantiated allegation of execution of surrendering LTTE cadres at the final phase of the conflict continued to cause trouble. Pro-LTTE television documentaries and setting up of international war crimes tribunal targeting Sri Lanka were part of the anti-Sri Lanka campaign, he said.