Sri Lanka defence secretary calls for formal end to truce

Dec 29, 2007 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s defence secretary said the government should formally pull out of a ceasefire with Tamil Tiger rebels amid escalating fighting in the island, a state-run daily reported Saturday. A 2002 Norwegian-brokered truce began to unravel in December 2005 and both sides have blamed each other for the mounting violence which has claimed over 6,000 lives since then, according to government figures.

“The ceasefire agreement exists only on paper. Obviously we can see there is no ceasefire,” Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse, who is President Mahinda Rajapakse’s younger brother, told the Daily News.

“It has become a joke,” the defence secretary said.

“I think the most sensible thing is that we must end this ceasefire agreement by officially declaring there is no ceasefire agreement.”

The internationally backed deal requires either party to give two weeks’ notice to Norway before formally ending it.

“Why should we hoodwink the people by saying there is a ceasefire agreement?” Defence Secretary Rajapakse said, adding that the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) should be formally banned.

“It is a terrorist organisation and we are fighting them,” he said