Sri Lankan defence secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa has stoutly denied he was militarising the northern region and insisted troops “are maintaining absolutely essential presence” and were spread across all 22 districts on the island.
He was responding to the charge by Tamil parties and the diaspora that army camps flooded the north even after the government won the war over 30 months ago and no civilian activity — not even family celebrations — could happen without the presence of an army officer.
“We have achieved large-scale development and restoration of normalcy within a short span after ending the 30-year war on terror.
It’s sad some people do not recognise this and instead are talking of sanctions against us. Is this fair and justified?” Mr Gotabaya, the influential brother of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, told India’s Deccan Chronicle in an interview at his high-security office in Colombo.
Rajapaksa also pleaded for a “fair assessment” of the development work and restoration of normal life in the northern region “within a short time of ending the 30-year war against terror” instead of summary branding of the government as rights-abuser.
“In these two-and-a-half years since winning the war, we have made great progress but, unfortunately, some people do not recognise that and harp on unnecessary issues, talk of sanctions (against Colombo).
It was not an ordinary insurgency but real war. You cannot compare the LTTE with any other terrorist outfit, not even Al-Qaeda,” Mr Gotabaya said.
Asked about the fate of senior LTTE leader V. Balakumar (ex-EROS), the defence secretary quipped, “I do not know specific cases. Was he in detention? I do not know. Most of the known characters died in the final battle. Some surrendered. There was ICRC and other agencies during the surrender process.”
Stoutly contesting the charge that the surrendered Tigers were killed in cold blood, Mr Gotabaya said international agencies, including the French MSF (Medicines Sans Frontiers) and the Indian medical team, were present in the battle zone to receive survivors and surrendered militants, the Deccan Chronicle reported.