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Sri Lanka - Interview Mahinda Samarasinghe

Minister says LTTE defeat "only a matter of time" after army attack

Article published on the 2009-04-27 Latest update 2009-04-28 08:28 TU

A Sri Lankan soldier on his way to the front in the north east of the island(Photo: Reuters)

A Sri Lankan soldier on his way to the front in the north east of the island
(Photo: Reuters)

Hours after it rejected a unilateral ceasefire offer from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), Sri Lanka's military launched a strike against a village in the rebel-held north-east of the country.

The military's latest strike comes amid growing international concern about the plight of civilians caught up in the offensive. The United Nations puts the figure at up to 50,000. 

The government had previously announced it was halting the use of heavy weapons and combat aircraft in order to prevent civilian casualties. This was welcomed by the EU's foreign ministers.

The Tamil rebels have accused the government of attempting to deflect international pressure, claiming that fierce fighting was continuing. UN humanitarian chief John Holmes on Monday said the Sri Lankan government was refusing humanitarian access to the conflict zone.

Mahinda Samarasinghe is the Sri Lankan minister for human rights and disaster management. In an exclusive interview, he told RFI the offensive against the Tamil Tigers was almost over.

Interview: Mahinda Samarasinghe, Sri Lankan human rights minister

27/04/2009 by Philip Turle

"The LTTE is restricted to an area less than ten square kilometres, so it is only a matter of time, but of course our priority has always been to ensure the civilians are not affected by the military operation," he said, "and as such it has slowed down".

"We have responded to calls from the international community," he said, "very recently there was a 48-hour ceasefire put into place so the civilians could get out, but then the LTTE has not responded. They have kept civilians forcibly".

"They have even shot at civilians fleeing."

"We have very categorically stated that the LTTE must now surrender," says the Minister, "and if they surrender tomorrow or today there will be no fighting anymore".

"This is a fight to liberate the civilians from extreme terrorism and we are on the verge on doing that."