05/26/2009, 00.00
SRI LANKA

Sri Lanka increases military power and excludes Tigers from democratic life

by Melani Manel Perera
Gen. Fonseka announces recruitment drive to increase army from 200 thousand to 300 thousand. Army remains on alert for suicide attacks by Tamil Tigers still at large.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – The Sri Lanka Army (SLA) commander general Sarath Fonseka, has announced a recruitment drive to increase the number of soldiers in the army to 300 thousand as a measure to avoid the reorganisation of the Tamil Tiger rebels.  Meanwhile the Minister for Defence Gotabhaya Rajapaksa has rejected the LTTE survivor’s statement of their intention to enter into the political life of the nation.

The new campaign would result in their being one soldier for every 66 people, police excluded.  Gen. Fonseka says he expects young people to enrole.  Despite having eliminated the LTTE supreme leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, and crushed LTTE’s armed wing, its political and administrative system, the army is still on maximum alert.

Fonseka says some 22,000 rebel fighters were killed in the last phase of fighting, and adds that since 2006 another 9,000 rebel fighters have surrendered to the army. But the SLA says that one of the LTTE top leaders still remains at large Selvarasa Pathmanathan. Rebel cells are also hiding out in the jungle and the army fears they will be aided by LTTE exiles and sympathisers abroad.  Gen. Fonseka adds that there is a high risk of suicide attacks on Sinhalese majority cities in the south of the island.

Meanwhile, in an interview with the BBC,  Defence Secretary, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa  has rejected the Tamil Tigers offer to enter a democratic process, saying the rebels could not be trusted to give up terrorism “after years of their violent activities.” G. Rajapaksa maintains that the rights of the Tamil population are already represented by democratic Tamil political parties present in parliament. The Ministers comments follow a BBC interview of May 24th in which Selvarasa Pathmanathan, said the Tamil Tigers would now use non-violent methods to fight for the rights of the Tamils and had agreed to enter a democratic process to archive their aims.

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