Tamil ‘terrorists’ must lay down arms, Sri Lankan leader tells UN debate

24 September 2008

Sri Lanka’s President today issued a call during the General Assembly’s annual high-levels segment to the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) – a group he branded as “terrorists” – to renounce violence and engage in dialogue with the Government.

“Our Government would only be ready to talk to this illegal armed group when it is ready to commit itself to decommissioning of its illicit weapons and dismantling of its military capability, and return to the democratic fold,” Mahinda Rajapaksa said.

He stressed that the Government will not allow the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka to be undermined.

Noting that Tamils hold ministerial posts in his Government, the President said that the Tamil community has lived in harmony with other Sri Lankans for centuries.

“But a malicious group has turned all of this upside down,” he said, adding that efforts over the past 25 years to resolve the problem has been “treated with contempt by the terrorists,” who indiscriminately target civilians.

Mr. Rajapaksa voiced hope that northern areas currently affected by terrorist activity could follow the example of eastern Sri Lanka, where former LTTE members are now provincial councillors and a former child soldier conscripted by the group holds the post of Chief Minister.

“Significantly, the restoration of democracy in the east of Sri Lanka was achieved in less than one year of it being freed from the clutches of terror.”

The President’s address to the Assembly also touched on the global food crisis.

“Achieving food security would require strengthening and revitalizing the agriculture sector,” he said, pointing out that this requires small- and medium-scale farmers to be empowered.

 

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