May 20, 2009 (AFP) – Sri Lanka celebrated victory over the Tamil Tigers with a national holiday on Wednesday as the army hunted down fugitive rebels, shooting dead eight thought to have escaped from the final battle. Under international pressure to reach out to the Tamil minority, President Mahinda Rajapakse vowed on Tuesday that a political solution to the island’s deep-rooted ethnic divisions would be found.
“All should live with equal rights. They should live without any fear or doubt,” he told parliament. “Let us all be united.”
Neighbouring India was sending national security adviser M. K. Narayanan and foreign secretary Shivshankar Menon for talks with Rajapakse, officials said. Hundreds of troops were deployed in the Muliyawaikal area where the corpse of Tiger leader Velupillai Prabhakaran was found after the fighting ended with a showdown in the jungle on Monday, defence officials said.
“They are doing clearing operations,” defence spokesman Lakshman Hulugalle said as more bodies were gathered for identification.
The eight rebels were shot more than 130 kilometres (80 miles) south of where the Tigers made their last stand in the far northeast, the army said.
The killings were