Sri Lanka's government says it has no faith in a unilateral cease-fire declared by rebel Tamil Tigers for the duration of a South Asian leader's summit. Fighting is continuing in the north while a security blanket is being thrown over the capital to ensure nothing goes amiss while visiting dignitaries of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation are present. VOA's Steve Herman reports from Colombo.
Perhaps only in Baghdad is there another national capital where security on the streets is this tight.
Soldiers on Colombo's Marine Drive, parallel to the Indian Ocean, randomly pull over vehicles for inspections and to scrutinize identification cards of drivers and passengers. In a drive of a few kilometers motorists can be expected to be halted several times at roadblocks.
Sri Lanka has deployed an additional 12,000 police officers and 7,000 military personnel to augment normally tight security. The goal is to prevent any attacks by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
The Tamil Tigers, on the defensive in the north of the country, have declared a unilateral 10-day cease-fire while dignitaries are in the capital for the leader's summit of SAARC, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation.
Despite that declaration, fighting between troops and the Tamil Tigers is continuing on three fronts.
Army spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara tells VOA News the government cannot trust the rebels to observe their own cease-fire and will try to keep them on the defensive while Sri Lanka hosts the high profile regional summit.
"They are terrorists. Whenever they declare a unilateral cease-fire they have some kind of hidden agenda," he said. "You cannot believe them so we have taken necessary precautions and at the same time we'll be applying pressure on them so that they'll have to concentrate on their own ground rather than creating any sabotage activities in the areas in Colombo."
There are conflicting accounts of this week's fighting in the northern Wanni region. The military says more than 30 rebels and three government soldiers died. Media reports quote the Tigers, who have been fighting for 25 years for an independent Tamil homeland, as claiming success in resisting the military offensive and killing five soldiers.
Some 1,000 delegates of SAARC are converging on Colombo. Later in the week the heads of governments are expected to arrive from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal and Pakistan. China, the European Union, Iran, Japan, Mauritius and the United States are sending observer delegations.