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President's address an eye-opener

President Mahinda Rajapaksa's address to the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Wednesday should be an eye-opener to the international community. It projected the right picture, on the latest developments in Sri Lanka.

His forthright speech won the hearts of many as he became the first world leader to address the UN General Assembly in Tamil as well.

The President reiterated his Government's commitment to a political solution to the genuine problems of the people in the North. Undoubtedly, that will serve to allay the fears of certain parties who seemed to believe that the Government's wave of military successes during the past couple of years would shelve a political settlement.

President Rajapaksa chose the highest world forum to assure his Government's commitment towards a peaceful solution and enlightened the international community that the Government would always respect the rights of innocent civilians, especially those in the Northern and Eastern Provinces.

On the other hand, the President's speech dealt a crucial blow to certain elements who try to portray him as a hardliner who does not compromise and banks completely on a military solution. The firm stand of the President and his Government has always been clear - a military solution to terrorism and a negotiated peaceful solution to the genuine grievances of the people living in the North and the East.

President Rajapaksa firmly believes that this two-way process will enable all communities to co-exist in peace and harmony. As the President emphasised at the UN, the Government has declared its policy of engaging in dialogue and discussion with the democratic leadership of the Tamil community, a people who have lived in harmony with other Sri Lankans for centuries.

There are Tamil leaders holding responsible ministerial and other influential Government positions. But the so-called sole representatives of the Tamils who indulge in terror acts would not stand any chance and would be eliminated militarily.

The killing of S.P. Thamil Selvan and the election of the new Chief Minister of the Eastern Province Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan alias Pillayan are two classic examples of the two-track solution to the conflict. Any terrorist who lays down arms and joins the democratic mainstream could live as a loyal citizen.

More significantly, the restoration of democracy in the East was achieved in less than one year of the province being freed from the clutches of the LTTE terror rule which keeps innocent civilians as human shields.

Global terrorism has not only been a scourge even for the superpowers but has also become a threat to world peace. Like many other countries, Sri Lanka too has not been spared of this global menace-exploiting perceived ethnic grievances, that must and can be addressed through political means, the vested interests of a well-knit terror group and the LTTE indulging in blatant and brutal acts of terrorism.

As the President pointed out at the UN, the Government has expressed its willingness to address the causes of these issues and effectively implement political and constitutional solutions to meet the aspirations and rights of all communities.

A legitimate Government could by no means let an illegal and armed terrorist group such as the LTTE hold a section of our population, a part of their own Tamil community, as hostages to such terror in the North and deny these people their democratic right to dissent and free elections.

The international community should pay serious consideration to the various peace efforts made by successive Governments since the late 80s under the then President - the late J.R. Jayewardene. Since then, all successive Governments have endeavoured to resolve the national problem for over twenty-five years; through Norwegian facilitation and the international Co-Chairs overseeing a so-called peace process that was treated with contempt by the terrorists.

The LTTE was not genuine in the peace talks and only used it to reinforce and regroup to strengthen their terror attacks against the Security Forces. Whenever the talks were held seeking peace, the LTTE walked out over the flimsiest of excuses and stepped up terrorism of the worst kind, targeting innocent civilians.

President Rajapaksa is the only leader who did not fall prey to Velupillai Prabhakaran's ploys. Having given him a few opportunities to talk peace, President Rajapaksa decided enough was enough when the LTTE denied innocent civilians of their basic human need of water in Mavil Aru.

Ever since, the LTTE has been at the receiving end as the Security Forces have shown no mercy whatsoever to the Tigers. Nevertheless, at the same time, the Government has always given top priority to the genuine problems faced by innocent civilians. The Government resettled Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) fast and even restored democracy in the Eastern Province after 14 long years.

The provincial administration is now headed by a former LTTE leader who has abandoned the bullet and joined the democratic mainstream, realising the true power of the people.

The LTTE has not only taken successive Governments and the international community for a 'good ride' but has also deceived the Tamil Diaspora, which funds them.Projecting themselves as the sole representatives of the Tamil community, the LTTE has been raising billions of dollars over the past several years from Tamils living abroad. But at the end, Prabhakaran has offered nothing but only inflicted misery not only on the relatives of those Tamil people funding the LTTE but also to all other communities living here.

As President Rajapaksa quite rightly said, the Government would be ready to talk to the LTTE only when the illegal armed group gives up its illicit weapons and dismantle its military capability, and return to the democratic fold.Giving a clear message to the UN, President Rajapaksa said a democratically elected Government cannot and will not permit any person or section undermining the territorial integrity of the sovereign UN Member State of Sri Lanka and the division of its territory.

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