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Sri Lanka’s president rejects demands to rollback military camps

May 19, 2012 (LBO) – Sri Lanka’s president on Saturday, rejected demands to remove military camps in the island’s north and urged international co-operation to modernise the country.

“We must ask if we in a position to remove the armed forces camps in the north and reduce our attention national security. That is not possible,” President Mahinda Rajapakse said in his nationwide address to mark the third anniversary since ending the decades’ long conflict.

Rajapakse, who is also the commander-in-chief, said military camps were not limited to the former war-torn regions in the north and east.

“They are seen throughout the country. They are in Colombo and Giruvapattu in the south. These are found in our country. Not in any foreign country,” he said during the victory parade attended by thousands of troops.

He said armed forces would remain on alert to prevent Tamil Tiger sympathisers living overseas from destabilising the country.

Rajapakse, who is also the island’s finance minister, appealed to international partners to raise Sri Lanka into a “modern developed country,” and thanked them for their assistance to defeat terrorism.

“Similarly, what we expect from them (international community) today is cooperation in our moves for rapid development of the country,” the president said.

Sri Lanka has poured billions of dollars to rebuild infrastructure across the country, with most of the large-scale projects driven by foreign backers.

Rajapakse made no mention of jailed former army chief, Sarath Fonseka, who is expected to be released shortly, after Sri Lanka's cabinet formally backed the president’s move to free him.

Fonseka, 61, who was detained in February 2010 after challenging Rajapaksa's for the presidency, is serving a 30-month prison term, after a military court found him guilty of corruption.

The retired four-star general is a US green card holder, and was named a political prisoner in the US State Department's 2010 human rights report.

During Saturday’s victory parade, the military displayed a range of its sophisticated hardware, including rocket launchers, tanks, helicopter gunships and jet fighters at Colombo's sea-front Galle Face promenade.

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