Opposition presidential candidate Maithripala Sirisena said that he is a “patriot” of Sri Lanka, stating he was the Acting Defence Minister during the final days of the armed conflict in May 2009.
In an interview with the Daily Mirror, Maithri assured readers he is a “patriot” saying,
“I was the Minister in Charge of Defence during the last two weeks of the war in which most of the leaders of the LTTE were killed with General Fonseka at the helm of the Army.”
“Prior to that I have acted as the Minister of Defence five times during the height of the war.”
Sirisena was appointed Acting Defence Minister on the 14 May 2009, overseeing the final days of the conflict in which thousands of Tamils were massacred.
The day he was sworn in over 1700 civilians were reported to have been killed and 3000 injured by Sri Lankan government shelling within the space of 48 hours. Thousands more were killed in the days that followed.
During his time as Defence Minister, the senior leadership of the LTTE attempted to negotiate a surrender mechanism with the Sri Lankan government, a UN official and the British embassy, a report entitled, ‘ 5 years on: The White Flag Incident’ and the UN Panel of Experts report found. On the 18 May 2009, Sri Lankan state television broadcast images of dead senior LTTE leaders indicating they had been executed after surrendering.
For more on the events of 2009, where tens of thousands of Tamils were massacred during the end of the armed conflict, see our feature: 5 years today: revisiting May 2009 (18 May 2014)
The Daily Mirror had asked Maithri,
“There is a sense of fear among the masses after the TNA and the SLMC came on board regarding the soveriegnty of the country. What is the guarantee that you would give regarding the unitary nature of the state?”
His response concluded by saying,
“I want to assure the people of this country that the country would not be divided, that there would be no war and that I would not permit a resurgence of the LTTE.”
“Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa keeps insisting that there are no patriots like them. This is the height of ridiculousness -- the notion that they are the only patriots in this country.”
When asked about what guarantees he would grant the Rajapaksas if elected as President of Sri Lanka, Maithri responded,
“I will personally guarantee the safety of every individual who was opposed to me from the family of Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa. The safety of every one of them will be my personal priority.”
See our earlier post:
Who is Maithripala Sirisena? (23 Nov 2014)