Special Correspondent

"Sri Lankan Government is duty-bound to protect the rights and interests of Tamils"

CHENNAI: Sri Lanka Science and Technology Minister Tissa Vitarana on Saturday charged the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam with committing more violations of the ceasefire agreement.

The violations had increased in frequency and magnitude. "They are reaching the proportions of a militant guerrilla struggle, and the danger of a war breaking out exists." Everything possible should be done to prevent these developments and to have an effective ceasefire, Mr. Vitarana told a press conference here.

At the start of the briefing, he said everyone knew what was happening on the island, and it was unfortunate that the views expressed and reports and interpretations made had not been accurate. The Sri Lankan Government's point of view had not been clearly presented abroad, particularly in Tamil Nadu and parts of India. He could understand the concern in Tamil Nadu for the safety of Tamils in Sri Lanka. "Let me assure you from the point of view of the (Sri Lankan) Government. We are as concerned as you are about the welfare of the Tamil people. As far as we are concerned, they are Sri Lankans. It is our bounden duty to protect their rights and interests." Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa was committed to taking the peace process forward. He had said that once he became President, he would immediately call the LTTE for talks, and he kept his word. He also stood for devolution. He had never been chauvinistic. Yet, the world media had created an image that he had taken the country to war.

He said the violations of the ceasefire agreement by the LTTE had increased since December 5. The militants had killed several Tamil leaders over the past several years, including during the ceasefire period.

Answering a question on India's role, Minister of Constitutional Affairs and National Integration D.E.W. Gunasekera said India should extend moral support for finding a solution. It had always been there. "We are sure it would continue to be there."