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President assures:

Speedy implementation of APRC proposals

The Government is committed to implement the political proposals that will be submitted by the All Party Representative Committee (APRC) as soon as possible, President Mahinda Rajapaksa declared yesterday.

"It is up to the APRC to deliver it. I will act on the report as soon as I get it. I will persuade all parties to implement it. But it has to be practical and acceptable to all," President Rajapaksa told editors and senior media personnel at Temple Trees.

"The proposals are not for terrorists. These proposals are for the Tamils, Muslims and indeed Sinhalese - they too cannot be left out of the solution. We will address their grievances. We have to work together."

"We have to go for a political solution. But there will be no room for terrorism. These are two different things. I don't believe in a military solution." "Terrorism is terrorism. There are no good terrorists or bad terrorists. They want us to negotiate with the LTTE, but if it is al-Queda, it's a different story."

He said the Security Forces would continue to retaliate if they are hit and also strive to protect the South. The LTTE and certain other elements wanted to bring down the Forces to Colombo from the North-East. Towards this end, there could be incidents in Colombo and elsewhere but the Security Forces are geared to face such threats.

Other forces beside the LTTE could at work to create instability, as evidenced by two minor blasts in Colombo.

Practical problems would be encountered while striving for a peaceful solution, but once concrete proposals are on the table and if they are viable, the parties currently out of the APRC would also inevitably have to join in.

He stressed that there was no pressure on him or the Government to deliver a solution. In his opinion, the 13th Amendment offered a basis for a solution, but the Government would respect the majority decision of the APRC, whatever it is. The 13th Amendment, though in the law, has not been implemented and full powers have not been given to the Provincial Councils.

The problem up to now has been that no proposals were allowed to be implemented. They burned the regional council proposals and ditched all other potential solutions. The LTTE was against every proposal.

"I cannot impose my own proposals. Nor can the SLFP. It will be a collective effort, a democratic exercise."

He said the Government was keen to ensure that Northern and Eastern people governed themselves. The local elections will be held in the East, followed by Provincial Council elections. As for the North, it will have to be cleared [of the LTTE] first. Then democracy can be restored.

Regarding the international community, the President said any country wishing peace in Sri Lanka "can join us".

As for the LTTE's pledge that they are prepared to uphold the CFA 100 per cent, the President said such statements cannot be trusted as they had violated the CFA over 7,000 times. Many Tamil political leaders were killed during the CFA period.

He dismissed claims that the LTTE was the sole representative of the Tamil people. There are many other Tamil political parties, civil society organisations and social organisations which act on behalf of the Tamil people.

Responding to a question on various armed groups, he said only the Forces and the Police are entitled to carry arms and all other groups are illegal.

He reiterated the Government's commitment to human rights, noting that Sri lanka was the only country in the world which appointed eminent independent observers from foreign countries to oversee the rights inquiries. The Government is bringing in a Witness Protection Act. There has also been a drastic reduction in disappearances and abductions.

He described the FBI's recent assessment of the LTTE as the world's deadliest terror group as an encouraging sign that the world is helping Lanka to fight terrorism.

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