TRINCOMALEE, Sri Lanka, Sept 17, 2007 (AFP) – A top Sri Lankan official said Monday that Tamil Tiger rebels need to be defeated, an apparent shift in the government’s previously stated intention to negotiate. Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse, who is the brother of the island’s president, argued that unless this were achieved, any political solution to the long-running ethnic conflict would be unworkable.
“Without defeating terrorism, we can’t have a political settlement,” he said in a speech in the northeastern coastal city of Trincomalee as part of celebrations marking the claimed sinking last week of rebel gun-running ships.
“The president is working hard on a political settlement,” he said, adding: “Whatever the political settlement, it cannot be implemented unless terrorism is eradicated.”
Sri Lanka’s government has been stepping up its fight against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in recent months, while at the same time insisting that its operations have been defensive and humanitarian.
Authorities have also been keen for it not to appear as if it is government forces who are responsible for the breakdown of a Norwegian-brokered truce, insisting that any military oper