Fears that Sri Lanka to occupy the north

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By Amanda Hodge, South Asia correspondent
Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

Sarath Fonseka

Sarath Fonseka

THE Sri Lankan army will recruit an extra 100,000 soldiers to crush any attempt to revive the Tamil Tiger movement, triggering accusations the Government plans a military occupation of the Tamil-dominated north.

The troop build-up, announced a week after President Mahinda Rajapakse declared victory in the 26-year civil war with the separatists, is likely to involve thousands of troops stationed in former Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam territory.

Sri Lankan army chief Sarath Fonseka said yesterday the extra troops were required to ensure that remnants of the proscribed terrorist group living overseas, and those still hiding in northern jungles, could not resurrect it under new leadership.

Suicide bombers were believed to be hiding out in the capital, Colombo, he said.

The military claims to have wiped out the LTTE leadership, including Velupillai Prabhakaran and its administrative leadership, in a push to capture the last patch of a once powerful shadow state controlled by the Tamil separatists in the north and east.

"There may be people abroad trying to promote a new leader and stage a comeback," General Fonseka told state-run television yesterday. "Our strength is 200,000 and it will become 300,000 soon. It will not be easy for them to build up a terror group as they did before."

The Government has been accused of planning an "army of occupation" in the north by establishing large military bases and cantonments to control Tamil separatist sentiment.

"There is talk of Israeli-type settlements and returning Tamils being settled according to a plan which makes them easy to control," an observer told The Australian.

Mr Rajapakse has vowed to reunite the country through a political package that would devolve power to Tamil people and satisfy demands for the right to govern their own regions.

But his brother, Defence Minister Gotabhaya Rajapakse, has warned that the military's job is far from over. "The entire area has to be de-mined and then we have to look for any remnants of the LTTE hiding in the jungles," he told the BBC.

The military build-up plans have concerned diplomats, aid workers and analysts, who warn it will only further alienate and demoralise the Tamils, who represent about 18 per cent of the population but suffer discrimination at the hands of a Sinhalese-dominated bureaucracy.

"It depends on what they do with (the troops) but it does not send a fantastic message about a new dawn in a post-conflict Sri Lanka if they blanket the north and east with Sinhalese troops," a diplomat said.

Sri Lanka has warned it will pursue the last remnants of the LTTE and any active sympathisers across the global Tamil diaspora, including Australia, in a new diplomatic offensive to stamp out rebel feeder grounds.

Information and Media Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa detailed plans last week for a "two-pronged attack to see a total eradication of the LTTE from the globe as it can pose a threat to other countries now that Sri Lanka has proved beyond any doubt that terrorism can be defeated".

"We will start discussions with countries, in Europe, Australia, the US, UK, and Canada, where the Tamil diaspora was active, to put an end to fundraising and demonstrations against Sri Lanka," he said.

The Government would push for the extradition of any known Tiger soldiers, politicians or fundraisers.

Several prominent rebel leaders remain at large, including the Tigers' so-called "smuggling mastermind", Selvarasa Pathmanathan.

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© Copyright 2009 News Limited.