War will be won, says Chandrika

COLOMBO, MAY 8. The Sri Lankan President, Ms. Chandrika Kumaratunga, today termed the present military situation as ``temporary but serious setbacks'' and vowed to ``win the war as soon as possible''.

Promises to defeat the advancing forces of the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the northern Jaffna peninsula, and assurances to bolster the confidence of a stunned nation which has seen serious military advances by the Tigers in the peninsula were high on the 15-minute address to the nation by the President over State TV.

Though no reference was made to the offer of the Tigers for a temporary ceasefire, the President made the official thinking clear when she said there was no question of leaving over five lakh Tamils in the peninsula to the ``oppressive advances by the Tigers''.

Charging that the LTTE was ``against giving Tamils their rights'', the President said the aim of the rebel group was ``to use the tool of terror against the people for whom they claim to fight''. The Tamil people were clearly opposed to the terrorist and fascist policies of the LTTE, Ms. Kumaratunga said, reiterating her government's resolve to protect all ethnic and religious groupings.

The recently-promulgated Public Security Ordinance, Ms. Kumaratunga said, would be used ``only in the extreme cases'' and would not remain for a moment longer than required. Explaining the rationale for placing the nation on a warfooting, the President called upon the ``brave youth'' of the nation to take an ``active role'' in the crisis situation.

Dealing at length on the past decades of the conflict, Ms. Kumaratunga made frequent references to the previous governments led by the Opposition United National Party (UNP) and said the policies of the previous regimes had resulted in strengthening the hands of the Tigers.

Fighting continues at low-level

Reports on the military situation provided by the Government pointed to a continued lull in the fighting in northern Sri Lanka, punctuated by attacks by the Sri Lankan Air Force at ``identified terrorist locations at Elephant Pass.''

Artillery attacks by the Army at Ariyalai killed six LTTE militants, the Government release said adding that one militant was killed in the Tanankilappur area and three militants were reported injured in an engagement in Pallai yesterday when troops attacked an LTTE bunker.