James vows to free Meghalaya of rebels

Shillong: Meghalaya's home minister James P.K. Sangma on Thursday promised to make the state insurgency-free within five years. Safety and security, he said, were his government's priorities.

James, who was allotted the portfolio on Wednesday evening, told reporters here that the new government would work towards ensuring an insurgency-free state but talks with any militant organisation would follow only after laying down of arms.

He admitted that militancy had declined in the state but added that one could not be complacent. "Operations will continue. We need a safe and secure environment throughout the state," he said, laying stress on the security of women and children.

He said the department's action would be part of the multi-pronged approach mentioned by chief minister Conrad K. Sangma to tackle militancy. James is Conrad's elder brother.

On talks with militant groups, including the Garo National Liberation Army, he said talks can be held only after laying down of arms. "Anybody who wants to have a dialogue has to surrender," he said.

The home minister said equipping the state police with better technology to make it more efficient was one of his priorities. "We do not believe in ablame game. We work positively," he added.

Expressing concern over the growing traffic congestion here and in other urban centres of the state, James said they would work out a plan with both short-term and long-term measures to solve this perennial problem.

On the killing of NCP candidate Jonathone N. Sangma in an IED blast by suspected GNLA militants, for which a probe by the National Investigation Agency or the CBI has been demanded, James declined comment.

Jonathone, the NCP candidate for Williamnagar, was killed in the blast near Sawilgre village in East Garo Hills district on February 18, a week before the February 27 polls.


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