Rajapakse dismisses Pirapaharan’s comments

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 28 November 2006, 11:57 GMT]
Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapakse Tuesday dismissed Tamil Tiger leader Vellupillai Pirapaharan’s declaration Monday that Colombo’s intransigence has compelled Tamils no option but an independent state. Rajapakse, who is visiting India this week said he had not heard the speech. “But I have not taken it seriously. Because he has always been saying these things.” President Rajapakse’s comments come after belligerent and contradictory comments by Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayaka, government defence spokesman Rumbekwella and government Peace Secretariat chief Palitha Kohana.

In his annual Heroes’ Day address on Monday Mr. Pirapaharan expressed his frustration at the “unchanging attitude” of successive Sinhala regimes towards resolving the ethnic conflict and condemned the recent three governments for their “deceitful handling of the current peace efforts.”

Saying that President Rajapakse had intensified the war against the LTTE and whilst at the same time talking about finding a peaceful resolution, Mr. Pirapaharan said “the uncompromising stance of Sinhala chauvinism has left us with no other option but an independent state for the people of Tamil Eelam.”

Due to this “fundamentally flawed dual strategy” of the Rajapakse regime, the February 2002 Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) “has become defunct,” Mr. Pirapaharan said.

Mahinda Rajapakse
Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse
Responding Tuesday, President Rajapakse told the CNN-IBN television channel here that he was ready for direct talks with Pirapaharan instead of involving ‘others’ to end an ethnic conflict.

He also attacked Mr. Pirapaharan.

“He has been talking like this from the start. He has been saying these things even though he came for talks. He always wanted to kill people. He has killed more Tamils than Sinhalese. Just count the number and you will know," President Rajapakse said.

Asked what can Sri Lanka do to convince the LTTE leader to return to the negotiating table, the President replied: "I don't know.”

“I can talk to him straight. So let us talk,” he then said.

“I always tell him 'why do you want others to get involved in Sri Lanka?'” President Rajapakse said, without elaborating how this had been done, but referring to Norwegian facilitators.

“I am taking a political risk by offering to negotiate with [him]," the president also said, referring to the Sinhalese-nationalist groups supporting him and which are opposed to peace talks and Norway’s role.

Reacting to Mr. Pirapaharan’s comments earlier, Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake, who visiting Vietnam, said: “negotiations will go on.''

Norwegian brokered negotiations are stalled amid soaring violence after acrimonious and inconclusive talks in Geneva in October.

"There is terrorism and there is negotiations,'' Prime Minister Wickramanayake said.

“Let the LTTE react in the way they want,” he said.

“Terrorism must be stopped by them, not us. We are not terrorists.”

“Ultimately the Tamil people must decide whether they accept terrorism or not, not we,” he said.

Echoing President Rajapakse, the Premier also said: “I am not aware of what the Tamil leader said so far. I haven't read it. I haven't seen it.”

Sri Lankan spokesman on defence matters, minister Keheliya Rambukwella, said President Rajapakse would adhere to the CFA and would continue with the peace process.

Mr. Rambukwella also attacked Mr. Pirapaharan.

“Duplicity is all over the speech. Every word, every sentence is duplicity,” he said of the LTTE leader’s Heroes Day address.

The head for the government's peace secretariat, Palitha Kohona, was the first government official to react Monday to Mr. Pirapaharan’s comments.

“I don't have to listen to a terrorist in the jungle,” he snapped. “If they provoke us, we will take appropriate measures to counter that.”

He then added: “we have said very clearly we want to solve this problem by negotiations.”

Mr. Pirapaharan said Monday “the Rajapakse regime is not giving due importance to the peace talks because it has confidence in its military approach.”

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