Army Commander Lt. General Sarath Fonseka has re-iterated the Government of Sri Lanka’s position that a political solution has to be found to Sri Lanka’s current problems and that peace talks had to be continued. He however emphasised that the search for peace must not allow the LTTE to strengthen its military capability thereby weakening the defence of Sri Lanka.

The Army Commander, who is on a three-day official visit to the U.S., made this observation when he in the company of Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the U.S. Bernard Goonetilleke met U.S. Under Secretary of State Ambassador Nicholas Burns at the State Department on Tuesday 28 November 2006.

The Commander said in the four years of the ceasefire, there had been considerable military build up on the part of the LTTE. Artillery pieces had risen from 10 to 100, from two 122 mm guns to 20 and from 20 heavy mortars to 80. In effect, the four year’s of ceasefire had helped the LTTE to become a stronger fighting force. The Commander was of the view that unless Prabhakaran was militarily weakened there could be no chance for peace and that he will not toe the line advocated by the international community. Therefore, it was imperative that GOSL checks his military capacity, at least to ensure that he does not grow stronger militarily to the extent that he sees no reason to seek a political solution. The Commander said “to do that the army is capable” and that “the army had done that during the past few months”.

The Commander acknowledged that the military had to sacrifice about 300 soldiers in the battle in Muhamalai in just one and half weeks. However, engaging in such battles was necessary in order to deny the LTTE strategic advantage to advance into security forces controlled areas, as they were seeking to do recently by trying to retake the Jaffna Peninsula. The Commander emphasised that GOSL’s operations were mainly defensive, adding that being defensive did not mean only sitting on a line, which you wanted to hold, but also seeking to pre-empt offensive action that might be directed at the troops. He emphasised that all operations so conducted were within a kilometre or two from the forward defence lines, and were done solely for the purpose of preventing the enemy from advancing at a time of their choosing.

Ambassador Ravinatha Aryasinha, Deputy Chief of Mission, Brigadier Athula Jayawardane, Defence Attaché, and Lt Col Channa Keppetiwarana, Military Asst to the Commander were associated with the Ambassador and the Army Commander.

Principal Asst Secretary of South and Central Asia Ambassador Steven Mann, Mr. Michael W. Coulter, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Political Military Affairs, Sri Lanka Desk Officer Molly Gower and the U.S. Defence Attaché in Colombo Lt. Col. James Oxley were associated with Under Secretary Burns.

During his stay in Washington the Army Commander also had meetings at the Pentagon with his counterpart General Peter Schoomaker, Chief of Staff US Army, and other senior officials of the Army and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Embassy of Sri Lanka
Washington DC

30 November 2006

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