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National security tops Govt agenda

The decision came following the LTTE's bid to assassinate army commander Lt Gen Fonseka, reports PK Balachandran.

india Updated: Apr 26, 2006 21:40 IST

The Sri Lankan government has said that following the LTTE's bid to assassinate the army commander Lt Gen Sarath Fonseka on Tuesday, it has decided to give top priority to safeguarding national security.

But this would be done without veering from its commitment to the peace process and the resolution of the ethnic conflict through talks with the LTTE, cabinet spokesmen Keheliya Rambukwella and Anura Priyadarshana Yapa told the media here on Wednesday.

Asked if the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) still held, given the fact that there had been a high profile assassination attempt and aerial bombings in Trincomalee district, Media Minister Yapa said that the ceasefire was holding though it was at a "low".

The Ministers said that the people of Sri Lanka, whether Sinhala, Tamil or Muslim, should know that the government would not cower before the uncivilised acts of the LTTE terrorists and would do everything possible to safeguard the security of the country and all its people.

They asked the people not to have any wrong notions about the government's willingness to safeguard them and their country, and appealed to them to avoid taking the law into their own hands.

The LTTE had tried to kill the country's Army Commander in the sinister hope that his assassination would lead to an anti-Tamil riot in the country, similar to the one, which took place in 1983, the Ministers said.

But they were happy that the people of Sri Lanka had not fallen into the trap laid by the LTTE and had kept their cool.

Addressing the concerns of the Tamil minority, the spokesmen said that the Sri Lankan Air force's attacks in the Sampur area of Trincomalee district, were only "retaliatory" actions, and were only meant to curb the military power of the LTTE.

"The government is not against the Tamil people," said Minister Priyadarshana Yapa.

The Military spokesman, Brig.Prasad Samarasinghe, said that as on Tuesday, on Wednesday too, the LTTE had fired mortars from the Sampur area and provoked the Sri Lankan navy and the Air Force to take counter measures.

The Air Force took on pre-determined targets he said.

On Tuesday, the LTTE had sent four or five suicide boats to confront the Sri Lankan Navy, besides opening fire, he recalled. 

Minister Priyadarshana Yapa added that the air strikes would continue so long as the LTTE kept provoking the armed forces.

The Military spokesman announced that the government had closed all the main roads to the LTTE-controlled areas in the North and East as a temporary security measure.

These roads, including the vital Vavuniya-Jaffna Alpha 9 Main Supply Route, would be opened the moment the situation improved, Brig.  Samarasinghe said.

The government spokesmen condemned the LTTE for the sinister and inhuman way in which it tried to kill the Army chief.

It had chosen a day set apart by the Army Hospital (located within the Army complex) for examining pregnant women.

The assassin had come masquerading as a pregnant woman and was loitering in front of the hospital waiting for the Army chief's convoy to pass by.

She set off the blast totally unmindful of the fact that there were scores of pregnant women in the immediate vicinity.

Among the injured were pregnant women, the spokesmen said.

The guards at the Army Complex had not frisked the assassin out of humanitarian considerations. One did not frisk pregnant women, they said.

The LTTE had cleverly taken advantage of the people's sense of humanity, they said.

Previously too, the LTTE had killed pregnant and breastfeeding women.

The spokesmen said that the international community was fully appreciative of the government's stand on the issue of the LTTE. They had strongly condemned the attempt on the life of the Army Commander.

The ministers urged the local and foreign media to report events in such a way that Sri Lanka's national security was not jeopardised.