Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa today declared that the war against the LTTE was over as he reached out to the Tamil population, saying their protection was the responsibility of his government.
Addressing Parliament a day after the Army claimed to have wiped out the entire LTTE leadership, including its supremo V. Prabhakaran, Rajapaksa said, "The victory against the LTTE has been achieved."
Rajapaksa, who spoke in Sinhalese and Tamil, said "protection of all people, including Tamils, is my duty and responsibility".
But, curiously, there was no mention of the LTTE chief in his speech.
A pro-LTTE website had earlier in the day claimed that Prabhakaran was "alive and safe", but gave no indication of his location.
The army had yesterday claimed that Prabhakaran, 54, was shot dead by the special forces as he tried to stage a dramatic breakout from the army encirclement in the war zone.
His son Charles Anthony and several other top leaders were found dead in the mopping-up operation.
In his message of hope and reconciliation to the ethnic minority population which has been living on edge for the past three decades, Rajapaksa said, ensuring equal rights for all "is my goal".
"Defeating LTTE is also a victory for the international community," said the Sri Lanka President who was repeatedly applauded by the legislators.
Inviting the Tamil civilians who had fled the country during the ethnic conflict, he said, "Our war was with the LTTE and not against the Tamil civilians."