2ND LEAD

‘There is no ceasefire agreement with LTTE’ - Gothabaya

[TamilNet, Thursday, 12 April 2007, 17:02 GMT]
There is no ceasefire between the Liberation Tigers and the Sri Lankan government and the 2002 agreement was only being left in place to satisfy the international community, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse said Tuesday. "There is no cease-fire agreement. There is no meaning in that," said Rajapakse, who is the brother and a close-confidant of President Mahinda Rajapakse told the Associated Press. He vowed to attack the LTTE’s northern strongholds, saying “it’s not good for the military to have relaxed periods.”

Gothabaya Rajapakse
The 2002 Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) halted the decades long fighting. But over the last two years the truce has unravelled as a simmering ‘shadow war’ erupted into open confrontations last year.

At least 4000 people have been killed since December 2005 in direct attacks and a ‘dirty war’ of abductions, ‘disappearances’ and vicious extra-judicial killings.

Yet even as violence has escalated, both sides have repeatedly insisted they are respecting the cease-fire, which is viewed by major donor nations — primarily the United States and European countries — as an important tool that keeps the entire peace process from collapsing.

"Officially we have not said there is no cease-fire agreement, probably to keep the international community happy," Rajapakse said.

His comments, AP reported were a marked departure from earlier statements by top Sri Lankan officials, who even as the violence has escalated have insisted they respect the cease-fire and fight only in response to Tiger provocations.

AP reported that Rajapakse’s interview appeared to confirm what many diplomats, aid workers and analysts in Colombo suspect — that the government is only paying lip service to the cease-fire.

The Defence Secretary further said the Sri Lankan military must build on the victories it has scored against the Tamil Tigers in the east over recent months and press on toward LTTE strongholds in the north.

Asked if the government planned to push toward the Tigers' northern strongholds, Rajapakse said: "Definitely."

"That's a very dangerous thing, to have relaxed periods, it's not good for the military. We must not give them time to regroup," Rajapakse continued.

"We have to continue this push in the north as well and identify the targets and destroy their targets more and more."

As expected, Rajapakse squarely blamed the Tigers for the unofficial collapse of the cease-fire.

The Tigers were "breaking it from the very beginning," he said, "starting ambushes and (land mines) and all those things so then the military has to react."

 

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