Any country facing terrorism should follow Lankan model - Defence
In an exclusive interview, with ‘The Asian Age’ Sri Lankan Defence
Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa said that Sri Lanka’s military victory
over the LTTE offers lessons for the international community.
Following are excerpts of the interview yesterday.
Q. Recently you visited India for defence talks. There was
defence cooperation for years before and during the conflict, so what
are both sides talking today?
A. India could not do certain things, meet certain needs of
the Sri Lankan armed forces, like supply of weapons, because of the
sensitivities during the conflict period. Now that issue is no longer
there, so we can think of going beyond that. The whole idea is to
improve the defence relationship, to strengthen regional security, to
improve maritime security in the Indian Ocean.
Q. There are concerns in India about China looking to beef up
its presence in Sri Lanka, particularly its role in the Hambantota port
A. It is purely a business arrangement, nothing beyond that. I
don’t think there is any issue in that sense. Wherever possible, when
India has faced any security concerns, we have always bent backwards to
accommodate them. With India, we are not looking at
government-to-government relations alone; we are interested in
people-to-people ties and trade. I know that Indian investors are
interested in infrastructure projects in Sri Lanka. We are studying
India’s successful PPP (public-private partnership) model.
Q. There has been criticism of the delay in the rehabilitation
of the displaced Tamils.
A. I don’t think any other place in the world has so quickly
resettled people in their original habitats in such a short period. In
one year we have resettled a majority of the three lakh IDPs. Very few
are remaining, and that is because of the delay in clearing landmines.
We cannot solve problems overnight but the government has aggressively
invested more money in the North and East than the other provinces.
Q. Sri Lanka has also been criticized for not minimizing the
civilian casualties of the war.
A. India knows what is LTTE but most of the outside world does
not. It was a most ruthless terrorist organisation. Some think the
attack on the USS Cole was the first attack by a terrorist group but by
that time the LTTE had done many attacks on ships. It had done more
suicide attacks in one year in Sri Lanka than all the suicide attacks in
Afghanistan and Iraq put together. The LTTE’s weaponry was equivalent to
that of the armed forces - heavy artillery guns, mortars, machine guns,
missiles, Naval suicide boats and, ultimately, even small aircraft. That
was the magnitude of its military strength. So it was not a small
insurrection or a civil disturbance. By defeating the LTTE, we have
stopped the killings of innocent civilians.
Q. How are you dealing with the former LTTE combatants?
A. We have rehabilitated about 500 child soldiers. We started
a skill development program for the 11,000 former combatants who
surrendered; some of whom have completed this program and joined the
This is the truth but the other side does not know the true story.
Q. What can the world learn from Sri Lanka’s experience with
A. What we have done is to defeat the terrorists. I should say
any country which faces terrorism should follow the Sri Lankan model. I
think in fighting terrorism as well as humanitarian assistance in a
conflict like this, there are lots of lessons for others to learn rather
than criticise. But there were concerns about humanitarian assistance
during the conflict. Our military operations and humanitarian assistance
ran parallel. One can say the actions were not effective, maybe there
were weaknesses, but it was a success. Of course, there were issues but
in a situation there would be issues. We had no-fire-zones and
restrictions on use of heavy weapons which are not normally done
anywhere in the world in this type of situation, but we did that.
Q. Looking back at the last days of the conflict, would you
have done anything differently? There were reports that some LTTE
leaders wanted to surrender but they were shot, there was also talk of
A. Prabhakaran did not want to surrender. Even the night
before they were defeated, they tried to launch a counter attack and
escape. There would have been no problem if they had surrendered, but we
came to that last minute after a hard battle and a lot of sacrifices, so
we were not ready for ceasefire.
Q. And did they inform the UN?
A. Nobody informed us about any surrender. We took the time to
defeat the LTTE because of the civilians. If we had no such concerns, we
could have bombarded the place, used all our artillery and walked
through within a day but we took over two months. So the international
community must consider the risks that we took.
Q. Looking ahead, do you have a political solution of the
ethnic problem, a devolution package?
A. Political jargons alone will not bring about a solution.
We have created an environment for everybody to live peacefully, as
Sri Lankans, as one nation. All other issues are for politicians.
The ground reality is we must give people the opportunity to live
peacefully, with jobs and education. That is what they want and the
government will ensure that this is there in Sri Lanka.
Q. What will be your message to the Lankan-Tamils living in
India and abroad?
A. Some of them left long ago; others, more recently. The
second and third generations have concerns about their children’s
I know it is difficult to give all that up and come. But if they
come, they are most welcome. I think they must bring their know-how,
knowledge, and invest their wealth here because development is the main
requirement. Courtesy: The Asian Age