2ND LEAD (Adds details to quotes)

‘Anything is fair’ when fighting LTTE - Gothabaya

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 12 June 2007, 15:14 GMT]
Sri Lanka’s hardline Defence Secretary launched a bitter attack on the international community Tuesday, saying Sri Lanka was being bullied by Western states over human rights. “We have to defend ourselves. I'm talking about terrorists. Anything is fair,” Gotabaya Rajapaksa told Reuters and the BBC. He said the United Nations agencies had been infiltrated and misled by the Liberation Tigers over 30 years.

Gothabaya Rajapakse, Defence Secretary
Gothabaya Rajapakse, Defence Secretary
Gotabaya, who is also President Mahinda Rajapaksa's brother, accused foreign powers of applying double standards when it comes to human rights violations, saying all measures were fair to defeat “terrorists”.

Last week the Sri Lankan government evicted hundreds of Tamils from Colombo triggering a chorus of condemnation from Western states.

“This is discrimination and bullying by the international community,” Rajapaksa told Reuters and the BBC in an interview Tuesday.

“Without understanding the problem, they are trying to bully us, and we won't be isolated. We have all the SAARC countries, the Asian countries,” he added. “Britain or Western countries, EU countries, they can do whatever. We don't depend on them.”

“They think that they we get aid. No, they are not giving anything.”

Both Britain and the United States have suspended small amounts aid to Sri Lanka this year citing rights abuse concerns – though both countries have sharply raised their arms sales to the Sri Lankan military this year.

President Rajapakse last month shrugged off Britain's move to cut aid and vowing that his government would not be held hostage over aid.

And Japan, Sri Lanka’s biggest donor by far, has refused to cut aid. Last week Japan’s peace envoy, Yasushi Akashi, visiting Sri Lanka said human rights may sometimes have to suffer in the war against terror.

Although Prime Minister Ratnisri Wickremenayake apologised for last Wednesday’s expulsions in which hundreds of Tamils were put on busses at gunpoint and sent to the North and East, Mr. Gotabaya defended the government’s actions.

“It is a good example where the whole world was misled,” he said. “Everyone knows the LTTE is infiltrating [the south] ... We can't arrest 300 people and detain them. What is the best option?”

“So you can tell them, if you don't have any legal business in Colombo ... we don't want to detain you, you go back to your homes. In fact this operation was much better. We could have put all of them in detention.”

He dismissed criticism by international human rights groups and international ceasefire monitors of the SLMM that Sri Lankan security forces are engaged in human rights abuses, including killings and abductions of civilians.

“We have to defend ourselves. You can't risk the country ...,” Rajapaksa said.

"What I am saying is, if there is a terrorist group, why can't you do anything? It's not against a community... I'm talking about terrorists. Anything is fair."

“When the U.S. does operations, they say covert operations. When something is (done) in Sri Lanka, they call it abductions,” he added. “This is playing with the words.”

Rajapaksa said British Foreign Office Minister Kim Howells, who visited the island on Monday, had been “completely misinformed”.

“Howells didn't talk a single word against the LTTE, a single word against terrorism,” Rajapaksa said. “They are threatening isolation, they are stopping aid.

“They want us to suffer,” he added. “When America is attacked ... every country (calls it) war against terrorism, but why are the terrorists being treated in a different way in Sri Lanka? Is Britain talking about isolating America?”

Rajapaksa also said U.N. agencies in Sri Lanka, which have also urged the government to halt rights abuses, had been misled by local staff sympathetic to the LTTE.

“For 30 years or so, this LTTE planned this, they infiltrated the U.N.,” Rajapaksa said. “The problem is the U.N. organisations, they took a lot of locals (on).”

"There are a lot of things happening in the UN," he said.

The United Nations told Reuters the claim was groundless, and voiced concern such comments might expose humanitarian workers to increased risk given the number of aid workers killed in recent years.

Meanwhile, Britain’s Howells said Monday during a visit to Sri Lanka he was worried about growing rights abuses and an escalation in the conflict.

The British minister called for talks with the LTTE.

"I told President Rajapakse that Britain stands ready to offer its skills in peace building.... I told him I know of no conflict that was resolved through military means," Howells was quoted by AFP as saying.

"At the end of the day, you need a political solution to meet the aspirations of the Tamil people," he said.

"Sri Lanka runs the risk of isolation," Howells said, referring to growing international concerns over rights abuses in the island.

"It is very important Sri Lanka is seen to have a human rights record that is clean," he said.

"Human rights is the prime test of whether or not a state conducts itself with modern values."


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