Sri Lanka vows to capture Prabhakaran, dead or live (Second Lead)

Colombo, April 30 (Inditop) Sri Lanka has vowed to capture cornered Tamil Tigers chief Velupillai Prabhakaran “dead or alive” even as it turned down

appeals for a ceasefire from Britain and France.

The military establishment, which is determined to crush the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), has also rejected calls that aid workers be given access to the war zone in the northeastern coast of Mullaitivu.

Thursday’s Island newspaper quoted Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa as making these remarks during interactions with British Foreign Secretary David Miliband and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner Wednesday.

Thousands of Tamils in the West, particularly in Canada and Britain, have been noisily protesting for days demanding that the international community put pressure on Sri Lanka to end its military campaign targeted at the LTTE because of widespread civilian casualties.

Although Colombo said this week that it will stop using heavy calibre weapons and aerial attacks to avoid civilian suffering, Rajapaksa has told Miliband that the government was determined to finish off the LTTE.

The comments came as the military continued to push ahead towards the final remaining base of the LTTE, which faces decimation after more than a quarter century of leading an armed campaign to form a Tamil state.

Rajapaksa, a younger brother of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, said the humanitarian concerns voiced by many were a ploy to extricate LTTE founder leader Velupillai Prabhakaran from an isolated sandy strip on the coast of Sri Lanka’s northeast.

A truce, Rajapaksa told the visitors Wednesday, would only help the Tamil Tigers to regroup.

“The only person who can stop this war is the president of Sri Lanka. The military had orders to either capture or destroy Prabhakaran and other top LTTE leaders,” The Island quoted Rajapaksa as telling Miliband.

The defence secretary added that over 200,000 people had been rescued by the army from the LTTE since March.

“On April 20 alone we secured the release of over 45,000 men, women and children,” he said, vowing to rescue the remaining civilians too within a short time.

Rejecting reports that civilians were harmed due to firing by the army, he urged Miliband not to be duped by the LTTE “disinformation campaign”.

“All the stories disseminated from the no fire zone were doctored by the LTTE for the consumption of the international community and the Western media. Do you think a terrorist group like the LTTE will allow anyone to express independent views detrimental to its cause?” he asked.

Separately meeting the French minister, Rajapaksa said the UN would not be given access to the LTTE zone despite civilian presence.

“The defence secretary said no one was safe in that area and the government could not guarantee anyone’s safety,” the newspaper reported.

The LTTE and many human rights organisations say that the military offensive have killed and injured a large number of Tamil civilians. The authorities here deny this.

Colombo — and many rights activists — has in turn accused the LTTE of forcibly keeping back the civilians in its truncated territory with a view to prevent a final military assault.

LTTE’s critics say it is using the civilians as a human shield.

Meanwhile, Japan has decided to send its special envoy to Sri Lanka, Yasushi Akashi, to the island nation. His three-day visit will end May 2.

“Akashi will meet government officials to call for ensuring the safety and security, including smooth provision of relief assistance, to internally displaced persons in the northern part of Sri Lanka,” a statement from the Japanese embassy said Thursday.