Lanka stages victory parade to mark crushing of rebels

Lanka stages victory parade to mark crushing of rebels

As Sri Lanka staged an impressive military parade to mark its victory over the LTTE, President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Wednesday told his troops that it was now time to win over the hearts of the minority Tamils who should be able to live without ''fear and mistrust''.

"The war fought against the LTTE was not a war fought against the Tamil people. Our heroic troops sacrificed their lives to save the innocent Tamil people from the clutches of the LTTE," Rajapaksa said in his address to the 'Victory Day Parade' organised here to pay tributes to security forces following the "defeat of terrorism."

Rajapaksa, who spoke briefly in Tamil before reverting to Sinhala language, said the Sri Lankan armed forces astonished the world by their skills in war, discipline, efficiency and valour while taking on the Tiger rebels.

"We cannot forget the great service rendered by them. The victory we gained defeating the LTTE, is a victory for our entire land," he said.

"The war against the terrorists is now over. It is now the time to win over the hearts of the Tamil people. The Tamil speaking people should be protected," he said.

The Tamils should be able to live "without fear and mistrust," the President said. "That is today the responsibility of us all."

"It is with great expectation for the future that I address the Sri Lankan nation that is having pleasant dreams of bringing about the dawn of a great and distinguished future," Rajapaksa said.

He said the people should live in this country as the children of one mother, as brothers and sisters.

About the LTTE, the President said that "until now the world had not seen such a powerful terrorist organisation."

"It (the LTTE) had ships, aircraft, submarines, huge fire power and most of all thousands of men and women suicide killers," Rajapaksa said in his Victory Day speech.

"For this very reason the world and some in our own country believed that in order to defeat the most powerful terrorist organisation in the world, the army of a world military power would be needed. Others thought it may be necessary to deploy forces of the United Nations," he said.

It was "frightening" to see how, not for a short period, but for full 30 years the terrorists had Sri Lanka in their clutches, Rajapaksa said. "They had terrifying plans to subjugate the entire country."

Rajapaksa said that by 2005, the "terrorist leader" Velupillai Prabhakaran remained unharmed having waged a war against four heads of state and assassinating one of them.

"They fought the powerful Indian army and in the end assassinated a great Prime Minister of India (Rajiv Gandhi). A Commander of our Navy, Admiral Clancy Fernando, was also assassinated," he recalled.

"The LTTE was able to assassinate our valiant Generals from Lt Gen Denzil Kobbekaduwa, Maj Gen Wijaya Wimalaratne, and Maj Gen Lucky Wijeratne to Lt Gen Parami Kulatunga," Rajapaksa said.

It sank several Dvora vessels and had free rein at sea bringing in armaments at will, and also downed several aircraft and killed more than 35 pilots, he said.

"Defence Minister Ranjan Wijeratne and the Minister of National Security Lalith Athulathmudali who led the way to the Vadamarachchi Operation were also assassinated by the LTTE," Rajapaksa recalled.

The LTTE had the ability to carry out major attacks in High Security Zones, on the venerable Dalada Maligawa, or any other place, he said. "Our Economic Zone inclusive of Colombo was easy prey to the terrorists," he said.

"Savagery is not bravery. Being humane is to be brave," Rajapaksa said as he along with other people present on the occasion witnessed display of multi-barrel guns, tanks and other armoured vehicles that took part in the battle against LTTE.

Rajapaksa also took the salute during the parade. People were treated to a fly past after the function.

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