Sri Lankan security force members march during the annual victory day parade in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Saturday. — APCOLOMBO
— Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse Saturday rejected international calls to withdraw troops from the island’s former war zone as he marked the third anniversary of the Tamil rebels’ defeat.
In a bullish address to the nation, Rajapakse said he could not dismantle military camps in the north because it would undermine national security in a country slowly emerging from nearly four decades of ethnic bloodshed.
“The diaspora has not stopped their activities,” Rajapakse declared, referring to Tamil separatists abroad. “It is no secret that LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) leaders are freely operating abroad.”
“Some are shouting ‘remove camps, remove camps’,” Rajapakse added in his televised speech made at a military parade ground in the capital Colombo.
But “these camps are not in another country. We have troops elsewhere in the country as well”.
His remarks came hours after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Sri Lankan Foreign Minister G. L. Peiris in Washington that Colombo should demilitarize the former war zones and do more to protect human rights.
Rajapakse, who is already under fierce international pressure to probe allegations of war crimes, made it clear he would not bow to international demands.
“As a member of the United Nations we sit as equals with other nations. We have friendly relations with all nations and we have the strength to solve our own problems,” he said.
“We have just begun to raise our heads... We have not forgotten the help neighboring nations and the international community extended us to defeat terrorism. Now we expect them to help us in our accelerated development.” — AFP