Sun, May 17, 2009
World > Asia-Pacific

Sri Lanka's civil war coming to end

2009-05-17 17:58:19 GMT2009-05-18 01:58:19 (Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

This photograph released by the Sri Lankan military on May 15, 2009 shows what the army says are civilians fleeing from the area inside the 'No Fire Zone' that is still held by the Tiger rebels. (Reuters Photo)

COLOMBO, May 17 (Xinhua) -- With Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels ready to lay down arms and the government's determination to defeat the rebels completely, the island's long drawn-out civil is coming to an end with the victory of the government.

A pro-LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) website, Tamilnet, quoted Selvarasa Pathmanathan, the head of the LTTE's International Diplomatic Relations as saying on Sunday that "We have already announced to the world our position to silence our guns to save our people."

Pathmanathan said in a statement that "in the past 24 hours over 3,000 civilians lie dead on the streets while another 25,000 are critically injured with no medical attention" in the no fire zone (NFZ) of the northern Mullaittivu district.

"This battle has reached its bitter end. We remain with one last choice -- to remove the last weak excuse of the enemy for killing our people. We have decided to silence our guns. Our only regrets are for the lives lost and that we could not hold out for longer. We can no longer bear to see the innocent blood of our people being spilled," Pathmanathan said in the statement.

He accused the Sri Lankan government for unilaterally walking away from the peace process that began in 2002 and opting for a military solution to the island's ethnic issue.

"In the face of the current conditions, we will no longer permit this battle to be used as a justification by the forces of the Sinhala state to kill our people. We willingly stand up with courage and silence our guns. We have no other option other than to continue our plea to the international community to save our people," the statement added.

The LTTE's statement was quickly rejected by the government, saying the military operation will continue until the organization is completely defeated.

Military spokesman Udaya Nanayakkara said the government can't believe the propaganda carried on by the pro-LTTE website, saying the military offensive will continue.

Nanayakkara said the LTTE rebels were defeated long time ago and only now admitted that they were fighting for a never achievable separate state.

He said the fighting in the NFZ is still going on and the LTTE rebels are offering resistance.

The spokesman also belied media reports that the LTTE founder-leader Vellupillai Prabhakaran has died.

A senior government official said earlier that the government didn't receive any formal statement from the LTTE, but he stressed that the military operation in the NFZ will continue until the rebel organization is completely defeated.

The government said on Sunday that all civilians trapped in the NFZ in the northern Mullaittivu district have been rescued by the government troops, paving the way for a full-scale military offensive.

The military said the troops have boxed the remaining LTTE cadres into a 400m x 600m land stretch in the Vellaimullaivaikkal area of the NFZ.

The NFZ was created by the government in January to shelter civilians caught in the fighting between the troops and the LTTE. The government later accused the LTTE of holding civilians hostage in the NFZ and began to attack the NFZ in April 20, causing more than 100,000 civilians flee the area.

The operation in the remaining NFZ came after Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse told the G11 summit in Jordan on Saturday that he will be going back to a country that has been totally freed from the barbaric acts of the LTTE.

Dubbed the LTTE as the most ruthless terrorist organization in the world, Rejapakse told the summit that the LTTE have massacred tens of thousands of civilians and destroyed the island's economy.

"Many in the world believed that the LTTE is invincible, but, I am proud to announce at this August gathering that my government with the total commitment of our Armed Forces, has in an unprecedented humanitarian operation, finally defeated the LTTE militarily," said the president.

He said the defeat of the LTTE on the ground heralds a new era in Sri Lanka.

"Efforts are already underway to complement the humanitarian mission with a political solution," Rajapake stressed, adding that his government is firmly committed to seeking a homegrown solution acceptable to all communities living in Sri Lanka.

The government launched its current military offensive against the LTTE in 2006, resulting in the recapture of almost all of the 15,000-sq-km territory held by the LTTE.

Claiming discrimination at the hands of the majority Sinhalese-dominated governments, the LTTE rebels began to fight for an independent Tamil homeland in the north and east since the mid-1980s, resulting in the killing of nearly 100,000 people.

The government has rejected calls for a truce to protect civilians while the LTTE refused to surrender and free the civilians the United Nations and others said they were holding as human shields in the NFZ.

Rajapakse is scheduled to ceremonially address parliament on Tuesday to announce the victory, marking the conclusion of Sri Lanka's bitter three-decade-old war with the rebels.

However, analysts say rebuilding the war-torn north and east as well as reconciling the nation poses new challenge to the government, especially when the economy is struggling with the effect of the global financial crisis.

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