Sri Lanka premier apologizes for evicting Tamils

June 10, 2007 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s prime minister on Sunday apologised to ethnic minority Tamils for evicting them from the capital, promising there would be no repeat of the controversial operation. “That is why I am expressing regret and apologising on behalf of the government.”

“It was a big mistake,” Ratnasiri Wickremanayake told reporters here, referring to Thursday’s expulsion of hundreds of Tamils at gunpoint from low-budget Colombo hostels.

Police had justified the operation by arguing that Tamil Tiger suicide bombers and assassins had been using the hostels to plan attacks, but the government has come in for fierce criticism from foreign governments and human rights groups.

“I express regret and apologise to the Tamil community on behalf of the government,” Wickremanayake said, rejecting claims by the country’s police chief that the Tamils had left Colombo of their own accord.

The premier discounted the justification offered by Sri Lanka’s police chief Victor Perera and said the government stand was that the police and military action was “wrong” and that minority Tamils had a right to live anywhere they pleased.

“They (the police) asked people whether they want to go