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Lanka PM apologises for Tamils' expulsion

world Updated: Jun 11, 2007 02:10 IST
PK Balachandran
PK Balachandran
Hindustan Times
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The Sri Lankan Prime Minister, Ratnasiri Wickramanayake, on Sunday apologised for the mass expulsion of Tamils belonging to the troubled North and East of the country from the capital city of Colombo, and pledged that such a thing would never be allowed to happen again. "We apologise for what has happened. Government takes full responsibility for it," the Prime Minister told the media in Colombo.

On June 7, about 400 Tamils were evicted from scores of lodges at dawn and taken away in buses to various destinations in the war-affected and Tamil-speaking Northern and Eastern provinces. "The government has to take responsibility for the good and bad deeds of its officers," the Prime Minister declared, blaming officials for the ugly incident which received heavy flak from all over the world. Such an incident should never have happened, Wickramanayake asserted.

As there was a case regarding the expulsion in the Supreme Court, he said that he would no say more on the subject. On June 8, the apex court had stayed the expulsion and any restrictions on the entry of Tamils from the North and East into Colombo.

On the abductions and disappearances which had become the order of the day in the capital city and its environs, the Prime Minister said that while government suspected that these were being done by interested parties to "tarnish the image" of the government, the incidents would be investigated.

"It would be reasonable to ask how persons could be abducted from a busy railway station in Colombo in broad day light, when there were so many check points," Wickramanayake said, regarding the abduction of two Tamil staff of the Sri Lanka Red Cross from the Fort railway station at 6 pm on a working day recently.

The Prime Minister said there would be more check points and roadblocks, and appealed to the people not to mind the inconvenience in view of the difficult situation in the country.

Earlier, on June 7 itself, President Mahinda Rajapaksa had issued a statement rapping the police for the action and sought an "immediate report" from the Inspector General of Police, Victor Perera.

The police had justified the action saying that the lodges were places where the Tamil Tigers planned terror activities in Colombo.

They said that they had only evicted and expelled Tamils who did not have a "legal and legitimate reason" for staying in Colombo. They had been offered free bus transport to get back to their homes in the North and East, "an offer many had availed of."

But following the President's angry missive to the police chief, 186 men, women and children, who had been taken to Vavuniya in the North earlier in the day, were brought back. But about 80 people who were taken to Trincomalee for an onward journey by sea to Jaffna, did not come back. "Many had decided to get back to Jaffna, while a few are still here," said a source in Trincomalee.

On Sunday, the National Security Media Centre website, had put out a report saying that the police had been raiding these lodges regularly. It quoted an inmate as saying that the police were always polite and that such raids were necessary for national security.