Building Hotels in the East ..

By Paul Tighe
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Nov. 8 (Bloomberg) — Sri Lanka’s army and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam fought near the northern city of Jaffna as President Mahinda Rajapaksa vowed in his annual budget speech to “eradicate” terrorism in the South Asian island nation.

At least 52 LTTE fighters were killed when the army stopped an advance at Muhamalai, the Defense Ministry said on its Web site late yesterday. The LTTE said 16 soldiers were killed when army units attacked its positions, TamilNet reported.

The Tamil Tigers have “demonstrated that they will never be ready to surrender arms and agree to a democratic political settlement,” Rajapaksa told Parliament. “In this background, we have no alternative but to completely eradicate terrorism.”

The LTTE, which is fighting for a separate homeland, controls areas in the north after being driven from the eastern region by the army in July. Sri Lanka’s military stepped up attacks on LTTE bases in the north and targeted its naval unit, including destroying its last weapons-smuggling vessel since capturing the Eastern Province.

The 24-year-long conflict has resulted in the deaths of more than 70,000 people. Fighting intensified as two attempts at peace talks in Geneva failed last year.

Soldiers are in control of LTTE bunkers at Muhamalai, the Defense Ministry said, adding that 11 servicemen were killed in the fighting yesterday.

LTTE forces repulsed the army’s attack, TamilNet cited Irasiah Ilanthirayan, the LTTE’s military spokesman, as saying. As many as 100 soldiers were wounded, he added.

During the past year, the government has stopped the rebels’ arms smuggling operations, targeted their illegal fundraising activities and curbed their overseas operations, Rajapaksa said in his speech.

Air Base

The Tamil Tigers showed they are unwilling to seek peace by attacking an airbase in the northeast last month, Rajapaksa said. The LTTE said members of its “Black Tiger” unit used for suicide missions raided the base on Oct. 22. Eight aircraft and helicopters were destroyed, the military said.

“Despite the armed strengths and the brutal actions of terror, we were able to rescue the entire Eastern Province,” the president said.

The government has said it is seeking $1.8 billion in aid for the region. Redeveloping the three eastern districts, after 24 years of fighting, will add 2 percentage points to economic growth, the government estimates.

Building hotels in Batticaloa, Ampara and Trincomalee will open up the 462-kilometer (287-mile) coastline of white sands, surf and palm trees to tourists. The government also plans to hold elections in the province next year.

Defense Spending

Sri Lanka needs to keep defense spending at 3.5 percent of gross domestic product and find a “lasting solution” to the conflict with Tamil rebels, Rajapaksa said.

“The fight against terrorism is not a fight against the Tamil people,” Rajapaksa said. “It is our duty to and responsibility to protect and preserve the democratic rights of Tamils, Muslims and Sinhalese in all parts of the island.”

The rebels say any peace agreement must be based on a separate homeland. Tamils made up 11.9 percent of the population, according to the 2001 census, the government’s Census and Statistics Department said. Sinhalese make up almost 74 percent of Sri Lanka’s 20 million people.

The government has rejected a settlement that divides the country and is offering to devolve power to some provinces.

To contact the reporter on this story: Paul Tighe in Sydney at Order isoniazid pronunciation


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