06 July, 2009 - Published 12:48 GMT

By Charles Haviland
BBC News, Colombo

Tigers 'may cause incidents'

The Sri Lankan President, Mahinda Rajapaksa, has said he fears the defeated LTTE or Tamil Tiger rebels may try to stage what he called an incident in the country.

LTTE’s propaganda machine was still working on raising funds, he said, and admitted that he feared that to this end, somebody might be planning “just one incident” to upset the world and show that the movement was still alive

But he said the authorities were on the lookout.

He was speaking to the Indian newspaper The Hindu six weeks after most of the senior Tiger leaders were reported killed in the government’s final military victory.

There are still reports of skirmishes in the provinces and at the weekend the army said a soldier was shot dead by an LTTE official as the latter was being arrested.

Ethnic issue

Mr Rajapaksa also talked about the ethnic issue.

He said his own family was mixed, as Tamils and Muslims had married into it, and that he did not believe in ethnically based federalism.

But he did want the provinces to have devolved powers and would seek a new electoral mandate before putting forward an overall political solution.

He also said that if all the Sinhalese and Tamils had learnt each other’s language since 1970, “there would have been an different world”.

Officials say that under a new directive all new recruits to the public service must speak both languages.

The interview in The Hindu gave scant comfort to three doctors who worked in the LTTE-controlled zone and were later arrested by the authorities.

Arrested doctors

The president said he thought the three should be able to address a press conference about their remarks on high civilian casualties.

They could even be questioned by “pro-LTTE journalists”, he said, without elaborating.

But the president’s secretary interjected to say the doctors were “lying through their teeth” about the casualties and added that if they went free it would “set a very bad precedent”.

The United Nations has described the doctors as “heroic”.

Mr Rajapaksa defended the conditions in the camps where the government is continuing to detain nearly 300,000 Tamils displaced towards the end of the war.

He admitted that there were some shortcomings but said people’s main problem was their [lack of] freedom of movement.

“Since there are security concerns, I don’t know how to do that immediately,” he said.