Gota warns of efforts to free hard core Tigers from IDP camps

Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa yesterday said that though the LTTE had been military crushed once and for all, attempts were being made to rescue hardcore terrorists taking refuge among civilians accommodated in welfare centres in the Vavuniya region.

He warned that this could be a part of an overall strategy to explore ways and means of reviving the organization.

In an interview with The Sunday Island, he said that an organized campaign had been launched to free terrorists from welfare camps before army and police investigators now engaged in a systematic screening process closed in on them.

Ordinary civilians would never make an attempt to flee welfare centres as the government, with the support of some international agencies, had provided adequate facilities for them, Rajapaksa pointed out.

Newly appointed Commissioner General of Rehabilitation, Major General Daya Ratnayake, last week said that though close to 10,000 LTTE cadres, both men and women, had been detained at 12 detention camps exclusively set up for ex-combatants, up to 10,000 more, including hardcore cadres could still be hiding among the civilians accommodated separately.

He said that once the screening process come to an end, the total of terrorists in government custody could go up to 15,000 or perhaps as high as 20,000.

The Defence Secretary said a many persons had escaped over the past two months though some were again re-taken to government custody. He acknowledged that some of those who escaped had been assisted by a few police and army personnel deployed in the area.

Some had escaped after being admitted to Vavuniya hospital on the pretext of illness. Action was being taken to tighten security measures in the area he said, revealing that a clergyman too, had been involved in the human smuggling racket.

Fielding questions, he said that the government could find itself in a difficult situation if it failed to account for people accommodated at welfare centres with the knowledge of the ICRC. Those who demand freedom of movement IDPs would then make accusations about disappearances. Some who escaped had fled the country while many taken refuge in Colombo and plantations areas.

He said that interested parties would turn IDPs to a major issue as part of their overall strategy to undermine Sri Lanka. Some wanted the government to enhance facilities available to IDPs while these same people speculate that permanent structure in the camps would mean civilians would be held for two to three years.

Despite severe financial difficulties, the government had always provided maximum possible support to IDPs. He vowed that the government wouldn’t allow anyone to reverse military victories achieved at a huge cost of lives and limbs of the armed forces.

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