"Capture" of the East by Sri Lanka
and the Killing of Sinhala Chief Secretary of the Eastern Province
17 July 2007
The President of Sri Lanka has condemned the killing of a top
government official in the east, which he blamed on "cowardly" Tamil
Tigers. President Mahinda Rajapaksa said the attack would increase
the resolve of the government to fight the rebels. Herath Abeyweera
was killed on Monday 16 July , only a few days after the government
declared it had captured all of the east of the island from the
rebels. The Tigers responded by saying they would use all resources
to strike back.
"I unequivocally condemn the cowardly assassination of Herath
Abeyweera, chief secretary of the Eastern Province by terrorists of
the Tamil Tigers," President Rajapaksa said. This assassination
further strengthens our resolve not to give in to the
forces of terror. "This is yet another
act of savagery by the Tamil Tigers in
their campaign of terror to achieve
their goal of a separate state, allegedly for the liberation of
the Tamil people
who are themselves severely oppressed by its violence and terror.
Correspondents say that Mr Abeyweera's death comes as a blow to the
government, which less than a week ago said that it had
"routed" the rebels in the east. It announced that it would be
holding victory celebrations after troops seized the last Tamil
Tiger eastern base, Thoppigala, which it said gave them
control of the region for the first time in 13 years. The rebels
- who claim the east along with the north for a homeland for the
Tamil minority - say they still have fighters on the ground and have
switched tactics, going into what they describe as guerrilla mode.
And they insist the Sri Lankan armed forces will struggle to hold on
to their gains.
Mr Abeyweera was the top official in the Eastern Province, and was
shot dead at his office in the port of Trincomalee on Monday
evening. No one claimed responsibility for the killing, though the
rebels traditionally do not admit carrying out such attacks. His
death came as the army and rebels continued fighting on Monday in
the northern Vavuniya district, leaving five combatants dead, the
rebels said. Four soldiers and a rebel were killed and six other
soldiers were wounded in the fighting, Tamil Tiger spokesman
Rasiah Ilanthirayan said in a statement. However the military
denied that such a clash took place.
The Tigers still control large parts of northern Sri Lanka, where they
run a de facto state. But the government says that its troops
have killed hundreds of rebels since February. The rebels dispute
the casualty figures.
ceasefire signed between the two sides in 2002 is still in place
on paper in Sri Lanka, although it has broken down on the ground.
Much of the fighting up until now has taken place in the east. More
than 60,000 people have died since the rebels began fighting
for an independent homeland in the north and east in the 1970s.
The Tigers say minority Tamils are
discriminated against by the majority Sinhalese population.