Sri Lankan cabinet meets in former Tiger capital

KILINOCHCHI, July 14, 2010 (AFP) – The president of Sri Lanka held a cabinet meeting on Wednesday in the northern town of Kilinochchi, the capital of the Tamil Tigers rebels until they were finally defeated last year. Rajapakse’s military offensive triggered international calls for a war crimes probe. The separatist guerrillas controlled one-third of Sri Lanka as recently as 2006 and ran a de facto state from Kilinochchi that included their own legal, banking and tax collecting systems.

Mahinda Rajapakse held a two-hour cabinet session and a review of construction work in the former war zone before meeting with ethnic Tamils who were displaced during the final months of the war, his office said.

The venue for the cabinet meeting was seen as part of Rajapakse’s efforts to present Sri Lanka as a united country since the defeat of the rebels, despite continuing deep ethnic divisions on the island.

The United Nations estimates that some 7,000 Tamil civilians perished in the final four months of the conflict, which claimed up to 100,000 lives since 1972.