The Tamil Tigers are finished as a military outfit but a small group of their feared suicide bombers still remain in Colombo, a top Sri Lankan official visiting India said.
Rajiva Wijesinha also said that the number of Tamil refugees who were taken into camps following the defeat of the Tamil Tigers in May would fall from the original nearly 300,000 to 50,000 by January-end.
Wijesinha, secretary in the ministry of disaster management and human rights, spoke to IANS and at the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies here about the current situation in Sri Lanka.
"Suicide bombers are still there in Colombo, we have to be careful," he said, referring to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). But he added: "We have had enough. We are not going to allow that to go on."
Wijesinha, however, made it clear that the chances of the LTTE reviving itself were unlikely "without significant foreign intervention. Most people have decided that this is not what they should be dabbling in".
"But the (pro-LTTE Tamil) diaspora is very powerful. And some politicians in some countries have not been very helpful."
It was not clear if Wijesinha was referring to a section of political leaders from the Indian state of Tamil Nadu who continue to subscribe to the LTTE cause despite the group's decisive military defeat.
Because of the dangers flowing from the LTTE's possible resurgence, he said the armed forces would be "in readiness" and the High Security Zones (HSZs) in the Tamil areas would be reduced "but they cannot be removed".
He described the LTTE, whose leadership was wiped out in May, as "a brilliant terrorist movement" whose campaign for separation in the north and east of Sri Lanka left some 90,000 people dead between 1983 and 2009.
Wijesinha, who is also secretary general of the Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process (SCOPP), said Colombo was committed to devolving power to the minorities but federalism was ruled out.
Citing the example of Kosovo and Western power interests, he argued that "there is a danger of legitimisation of separatism" in a federal structure in a country like Sri Lanka.
He admitted that Sri Lanka came under intense international pressure over the hundreds of thousands of Tamils interned in camps after the LTTE's defeat.
"The pressure from the West was quite extensive," he said. "But countries like India, Pakistan, China, Egypt, Cuba and Brazil understood our security concerns.
"These countries also had questions about the refugees and their rehabilitation and a political map for the devolution process, but they did not pressure us."
Wijesinha said that from a high of nearly 300,000 in May 2009, the number of civilians in camps had now fallen to about 164,000 and this would go down further to 40,000-50,000 by January-end.
Of this, about 10,000 would be surrendered LTTE cadres who needed to be taught skills to join the mainstream, he said.
Wijesinha attributed the slow repatriation of Tamils to three factors, including security considerations, the slow pace of de-mining in the north of the island and the lack of infrastructure in the war-hit zone.
"We are now moving with incremental swiftness," he said, referring to the pace of civilian movement from the camps. "We now have a feeling of success."
But he said the Sri Lankan government would not allow NGOs to get involved in the rehabilitation of the refugees. "We have made that very clear to (Western) donors."