If the JVP commemorates its members died fighting the Police and the Armed Forces at two terror campaigns in 1971 and 1989 – 90 period, no one must have any ill-will or resent, when parents of those who died at war in the North–East did the same, Cabinet Spokesman Health Minister Dr Rajitha Senaratne said.
He added that not only the LTTE but the JVP also fell in the category of terrorists because the LTTE launched a civil war to divide the county and establish Eelam and the JVP tried to topple the democratically elected Governments.
In response to the media at the weekly Cabinet news briefing at the Information Department Auditorium yesterday, Minister Senaratne asked whether it was wrong when the parent and relatives of war dead to engage in religious activities to commemorate their loved ones, who died in the war.
The dialogue between the media that ensued during the news briefing is as follows:
Journalist: Are you saying that the JVP also was a terrorist organization during their campaign against the Government, like the LTTE?
Minister Senaratne: Absolutely, because both, the LTTE and the JVP had launched a civil war in the country and both were terrorists in their actions.
Journalist: Does the Government permit to hold Maveerar Day on May 18 and 19 in the North-East?
Minister Senaratne: The Government permits only to commemorate civilians, who became war victims by their families and relatives.
Journalist: That insinuates that civilians died during the conflict.
Minister Senaratne: Yes, of course. Civilians of both sides died in the war.
Journalist: But the Sri Lankan Government maintains that there were no civilian casualties at the final phase of the war.
Minister Senaratne: That is the most unrealistic comment on the civil war in Sri Lanka. Can any right-thinking person say that there were zero casualties at the humanitarian operation?
Journalist: Are you saying that armed forces deliberately targeted civilians at the humanitarian operation?
Minister Senaratne: Not at all! What I am saying is that it is impossible to prevent collateral damage in any armed conflict. We became a laughing stock when we said there were zero casualties at the final stage of the war. This claim of Zero Casualties seriously affected the credibility of Sri Lanka. Whether it was a war waged by Dharmasoka or Alexander the Great, preventing collateral damage is impossible. That is the nature of the war. We cannot blame any side of the divide for civilian casualties but the war itself.
Journalist: Should our armed forces take responsibility for civilian casualties if any.
Minister Senaratne: Absolutely not. Don’t forget that it was a separatist war waged against a democratically elected Government. The LTTE terror campaign also challenged the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the country. Therefore, our armed forces did not have any other option but to crush the terror campaign using its full might. In that endeavour, they never targeted civilians but militants. Therefore, no one can blame our armed forces. Did the US and the EU killed only IS and other Middle East terrorists in Syria, Iraq, Libya or Afghanistan when they bombed those countries?
Journalist: Does the Government commemorate war heroes this year?
Minister Senaratne: Yes, at the Parliament grounds on Saturday.
Journalist: Does the Army prevent if there were ceremonies to commemorate dead LTTE cadres?
Minister Senaratne: Commemorating dead terrorists is against the law of the land. But there is no problem in commemorating dead civilians.
A journalist from Military Spokesman, Brigadier Sumith Atapattu:
What do you have to say about this?
Brigadier Atapattu: No comments.
(Sandun A Jayasekera)