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Tuesday, May 29 , 2012 - 06.05 GMT
All Sri Lankans have right to settle in everywhere - Defence Secy


All Sri Lankans, irrespective of their ethnicity and other differences, should be able to live in any part of the country, Defence and Urban Development Ministry Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa said.

In an interview with the BBC, the Defence Secretary said all Sri Lankans regardless of their race should have the freedom to live in any part of the country and it is not appropriate to view the Northern Province over which a war was fought, as a predominantly Tamil area.
The Defence Secretary portrayed a normalising Sri Lanka with opportunities for all regardless of ethnicity.

Just as a lot of Tamil officers worked in Southern districts, Sinhalese and Muslims should be able to work in the North.

It is part of Sri Lanka. So were some correct to view the North as a predominantly Tamil place? Why should that be? Why should that be? he said. If you are a Sri Lankan citizen you must be able to go and buy the properties from anywhere. Im not talking about the forced settlements, Im talking about the freedom for a Sri Lankan to live anywhere in this country.

Secretary Rajapaksa commenting said some 7,400 were killed during the last months as a result of the fighting and only a few of these were civilians and most were Tamil Tiger fighters.

"Do you think it was a battle between the Sri Lankan army and civilians? It's a battle between the army and the terrorist group which were equally armed like the military," he said.

"Within this 7,000-odd number that includes the combatants as well!"

Six thousand army soldiers had been killed in this period, he said.

He said the census-takers had visited family after family and taken the names of all those who died. There might have been "certain" civilian casualties but "not in the numbers you quote".

If there were proven violations of the laws of war "then we can punish, no problem, but you have to prove that".

The army had defeated a terrorist group that killed innocent people, destroyed property, buses, trains, hotels and many other targets, he said.

"All this we have stopped... but you don't talk about that," he said.

In the north, he said, life was getting back to normal - fishing restrictions had been lifted, the army had moved out of contentious areas such as running restaurants, and anti-LTTE Tamil groups had now been disarmed.

This is a time that... irrespective of whether Sinhalese, Tamil or Muslim, you as a Sri Lankan must move forward.





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Last modified: May 29, 2012.

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