Threat to Jaffna and Palaly real - Ranil

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 25 April 2000, 13:37 GMT]
Sri Lanka's opposition leader Mr.Ranil Wickremesinghe said today that the fall of the Elephant Pass -Iyakkachchi military base complex poses a real threat to Jaffna and Palaly, the peninsula's main military garrison.

Mr.Wickremesinghe addressed his first press conference today in Colombo since his return from a three week long trip abroad. He was accompanied by the UNP's General Secretary Mr.Gamini Athukorala and its Chairman Mr.Karu Jayasuriya.

He said that the Sri Lankan government should have started de-escalation of the war from January 2000 and addressed the day to day problems of the people in the north. The UNP had urged the government to do so he claimed.

"Anything should be done within weeks" he said when a journalist questioned him about the possibility of bringing in foreign military expertise to advice on the conduct of the war.

'It is a political and military setback. Militarily we have lost the gateway to Jaffna and politically the fall of Elephant Pass means that the Tigers would come for negotiations with greater bargaining power' the opposition leader said.

He placed the whole responsibility for the debacle at the PA regime's doorstep, pointing out that the Deputy Minister for Defence Gen.Anuruddha Ratwatte had declared in Parliament during last month's debate on the extension of the Emergency that his (Ratwatte's) government would pay any price to save the Elephant Pass base.

The President should explain the situation to the Parliament as she is the Minister of Defence said Mr.Wickremesinghe.

"What's the point in changing the doctor when the patient is already dead" replied the UNP leader in Sinhala when a journalist asked him about the changes made by the government in the army's command structure during the Elephant Pass crisis.

The LTTE's political and military strategies are synchronised but it is not so with the government he said.

Thirteen thousand Sri Lanka army soldiers have been killed in the war with the Liberation Tigers since 1994 according to Mr.Wickremesinghe.


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