Putting up a strong and spirited defence for the armed forces of Sri Lanka, which have been accused of killing civilians in hospitals and elsewhere in the last stages of the war with the LTTE in 2009, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa told his troops: “We were with you in the battlefield. It is the same today. We will not betray you before the world.”
The troops fought with due regard to international conventions and were carrying out a humanitarian operation, he maintained. “I will recall what I said in the past that our troops went to the battlefront carrying a gun in one hand, the Human Rights Charter in the other, food for the innocent displaced on their shoulders, and love of their children in their hearts. They did not target any communities or religions, and did not march ahead with hatred towards anyone,” he said, addressing the Victory Day Parade 2011, organised to celebrate “eradication of terror” in Sri Lanka.
The President recalled that after the death of LTTE supreme Prabhakaran, Sri Lanka took care of his mother and father. “We still look after the families of leaders who surrendered. We were able to protect our country over the centuries from invaders because we did not hate any race, religion or person,” he added.
After the war, the Armed Forces were involved in the development of the country, he said and added that this was an important task which was handed over to them. “There is a truth we have to tell the world. We did not build Armed Services to invade countries. What we have is an Armed Force committed to rebuild the country with utmost commitment to the people,” he said.
Sri Lanka would ensure democracy and human rights to the people of the north and the east, but will not concede to the demands of terrorists. “When people in this country do not accept their demands, they [the terrorists] look for ways to make us bow down using foreign influence. But I must emphasise that no one can do anything in this country without the consent of our people. It is only we who can solve our own problems, and no one else,” said Mr. Rajapaksa.
Recalling the situation prevalent earlier when LTTE controlled large parts of the north and the east, he said that Sri Lanka was the only country that fought the terrorists fighting against it while feeding them and providing them with medicines. “Therefore, when we see how some countries carry out operations against enemies today, we are proud of the humanitarian nature of our operation against the enemy,” he said.
He pointed to the growth rate of the country since the conclusion of the war. “The best answer to those who ask what benefits the people received with the end of the war, is to respond by showing the development both in the north and south today. The economic growth rate in the country in 2007 was 6.8 per cent. But after the end of the war, we have achieved an economic growth rate of 8 per cent. The current growth rate in the north is 14.2 per cent. The unemployment rate has come down from 6 per cent to 4.9 per cent,” he said.