Rajapaksa invites Karunanidhi to visit Jaffna, Vanni, to advise Tigers to free human shield
Colombo, 26 January (Asiantribune.com): In a smart diplomatic initiative, President Mahinda Rajapaksa Sunday invited 'veteran' Indian leader Karunanidhi, also his arch rival Jayalalithaa Jayaram of AIADMK to visit Jaffna and Vanni and personally appeal to LTTE to release the Tamilians held as human shield at gun point.
"We are ready to provide safe corridors for the civilians to go through the army control areas to safer places, but it is now up to the Tamil Tigers to 'release' the civilians", the President told the Asian Tribune in an exclusive interview as the troops triumphantly marched into Mullaitivu and cornered the Tigers to a small stretch of some 300 sq km, two years after the ceasefire broke down and Eelam War IV started.
"I have already invited Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.Karunanidhi to make an official visit to Sri Lanka and meet the Tamil people in Jaffna, as well as those in the East and in the Upcountry to see for himself how the Tamils in Sri Lanka are living with honor and dignity", Rajapaksa said hailing the DMK chief as a veteran Indian leader.
There is no immediate reaction from Chennai.
Only two days back, to be precise on the eve of PM Singh's coronary by-pass surgery, Karunanidhi made to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh his 'final' appeal for a ceasefire in Eelam War IV.
Without making any reference to this 'appeal', the President observed: 'If Karunanidhi is interested in a ceasefire he can persuade the Tamil Tigers to lay down their arms and announce it publicly so that arms surrender could be worked out in a mutually acceptable way as proposed by Karunanidhi and the Sri Lanka Government'.
He added: 'The veteran political leader on whom I have the greatest respect and regard, could even bring along with him a delegation consisting of the Tamil Nadu political leaders on his visit to Sri Lanka'.
And stated that he had also extended a separate invitation to Tamil Nadu's opposition leader J.Jayalalithaa to visit Sri Lanka and see for herself prevailing situation in the country.
President said, 'As a respected Tamil voice in the world, Karunanidhi should come forward to appeal to the leaders of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam to free the Tamils from their iron clutches'. He put the number of Tamils held back by the Liberation Tigers as anywhere between 150 and 200 thousands. And the area under Tigers is no more than 350 to 400 sq km, down from 5,000 sq km held by them when Eelam War IV started in 2006.
"LTTE is holding them as human shield for its own safety and security. They are all kept in Vanni at gun point. Even women, old people and children are not being allowed to leave the area despite appeals by United Nations and the international community’s", the Sri Lanka President said when asked about the efforts made so far to secure release of the innocent civilians.
"It is really unfortunate", Rajapaksa said, "Tigers are breaching Tank bunds to flood the area to stop civilians leaving for safety in the liberated area".
President also told Asian Tribune that the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister could meet the leaders of the LTTE in Vanni and talk with them to let innocent Tamil civilians to go to safe areas.
Asked about the demands for ceasefire he told the Asian Tribune that it was upto Karunanidhi how goes about the task.
'He can persuade the Tamil Tigers to lay down their arms and announce it publicly so that arms surrender could be worked out in a mutually acceptable way, as proposed by Karunanidhi and the Sri Lanka Government.
'Once LTTE surrenders arms and give an undertaking before the Indian leaders that they are ready to join the democratic mainstream, our government is ready to consider favorably to enter into a ceasefire,', he observed.
Terming the TNA parliamentarians as the LTTE proxies, President Rajapaksa made a fervent plea to the Tamil Nadu political leaders 'not to be misled and misdirected by TNA'.
Answering a question on the 'status' of the Eelam War IV, the President, who is also the supreme commander of armed forces of Sri Lanka, said troops have moved a step closer to finishing off one of Asia's longest-running insurgencies. He reiterated his determination to chase the Tigers and liberate the Tamils from terrorists' grip.
The LTTE began its brutal campaign for 'Eelam' began in 1983 claiming to be the sole representative of ethnic Tamilians in the Island Republic. Now it is confined only to a small area of 350 to 400 square kilometers in the sprawling Vanni region in the North.
"Once we (Sri Lanka government) clear the north from the Tigers' hold, then we will start to develop the North as we are presently doing in the East", Rajapaksa said in response to another question.
Asian Tribune drew the President's attention to the plight of Muslims who were chased out of Jaffna and from the Northern Province and are presently languishing in refugee camps in Puttalam and other areas in the North West of the country.
President replied: "We will rehabilitate them in their original homes. This is our commitment. This is our resolve".
More than 100, 000 Muslims are internally displaced. They are languishing in refugee camps since 1991.
President said Government would soon make necessary arrangements to enable these Muslims to restart their livelihood. "The government will also take steps to get them a roof over their head".
He reiterated that the liberated Tamils of the North would be brought back to the democratic mainstream and measures would be taken to ensure they live in Sri Lanka with honor and dignity like other ethnic groups in other parts of Sri Lanka.