Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa made his statement to the LLRC during the 3rd session of public hearing on the 17th of Augus. He stated that the Sri Lankan army did all it could to avoid civilian casualties during the war with Tamil rebels. He highlighted that the government fought with a zero casualty policy and that most of those killed were possible LTTE combatants as the number of LTTE cadres killed was never revealed in correct statistics.
He also added that nobody talks on how one can identify civilian casualties from combatants and that the LTTE would change clothes and pretend to be civilians when injured. He emphasised that knowing that to be the situation, the army still was willing to help the injured, be they LTTE cadres or civilians.
He pointed out that most of the people have forgotten that government and army defeated the most ruthless organisation in the world, according to him all suicide attacks conducted by extremist Muslim groups were equivalent to one year of LTTE attacks.
Mr. Rajapaksa also highlighted the atrocities committed by the LTTE among which are the assassination of Tamil leaders such as Lakshman Kadiragamar, other political leaders among whom are President Premadasa and also hundreds and thousands of civilians.
Explaing the conduct of the government he emphasised, from the very beginning government took several steps because the Security Council was aware of civilians living in the combating areas. The possibility of a humanitarian crisis was acknoleged.
“From the very beginning we took several measures to face this kinds of possible humanitarian crisis.” He stated.
Speaking of the food items sent to the Vakarai area, Mr. Rajapaksa stated that although the government knew that some of the supplies sent, were taken by the LTTE for their own use, they continued sending supplies as the civilians needed it.
“ Till the last minutes, we sent these food items, where there was no land access we took all the measures from the sea.”
He also elaborated the casualties suffered by the army and states that over this period, the army had suffered 6ooo deaths in action, 30000 injured. He explained that it shows the intensity of fighting which took place.
In speaking of no fire zones, he said that declaration of no fire zones was an important factor and that it can be taken as a Sri Lankan model. He also added that this can be adopted in other places where terrorism is felt, for humanitarian assistance and minimising civilian casualties.
In commenting on the civilian being used as human shields, he said that at one stage the LTTE wouldn’t let the civilians come out and we realised that they would use the civilians as a human shield.
He continued that no fire zones were opened and on the first day 20 000 civilians crossed to army control areas which pointed to the LTTE a danger and they started attacking those who were crossing and suicide attacks were implemented killing civilians as well as unarmed army persons helping civilians.
He also stated that there were mechanisms set in place to receive IDPs that were coming, medical assistance organised.
In commenting on the current IDP situation he assured that there was no army settlements to be built in the North as rumours spread and that no civilians had been yet settled either. And he also added that the detainees were being rehabilitated so that they can be used to the functioning of the social mechanism.