Article published on the 2009-04-24 Latest update 2009-04-24 15:13 TU
A Sri Lankan soldier pushes a woman fleeing a rebel-controlled area, in Puthukkudiyirippu, northern Sri Lanka, 22 April 2009
The Sri Lankan government says there will be no more breaks in its offensive against Tamil Tiger rebels in the north of the country, after rejecting a United Nations plan to send a special humanitarian mission to the north of the country. Meanwhile, the army, quoting a captured rebel spokesperson, says the leader of the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) is trapped in a strip of jungle in the north-east of the country.
“There is no need for the UN to send people from abroad to visit those areas,” Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe told reporters Friday.
He said the government was trying to grant access to Colombo-based UN employees to go into the northern conflict areas, but said that Tamil Tiger rebels were making it “virtually impossible.”
The Sri Lankan government has been blocking most aid agencies from the region for months, accusing the UN and other NGOs of supporting the rebels.
Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon and National Security Adviser MK Narayanan arrived in Sri Lanka Friday to meet with President Mahinda Rajapakse, and urge him to stop the assault, in light of the humanitarian crisis facing the tens of thousands of civilians trapped in the fighting area.
"These killings must stop,” Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee said in a statement. “The Sri Lankan government has a responsibility to protect its own citizens, and the LTTE must stop its barbaric attempt to hold civilians hostage."
Wednesday night the UN Security Council issued a statement calling on the Tamil Tiger rebels to surrender and allow civilians trapped in the conflict zone to leave.
“I think the message was very clearly to the Tigers: stop the suffering of the civilians,” Rajiva Wijesinha, Secretary of the Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the UN in Geneva, told RFI. “Obviously they also said that we need to be careful, and we know that.”
"Both sides are so obsessed with the military aspect of their resepctive campaigns that they are quite willing to ignore civilian casualties," says Rohan Edrasinha at the Centre for Policy Alternatives in Colombo. "And this is what is particularly tragic about what has been going on in Sri Lanka in the last couple of weeks.
Meanwhile, on Friday the Sri Lankan army said rebel leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, is alive, trapped in a strip of jungle in the north. Brigadier Shavendra Silva told reporters that a rebel spokesperson who surrendered Wednesday said that Prabhakaran was still in charge of the separatist army and would “be there until the last moment”.
Prabhakaran has not been seen for 18 months, and there was speculation that he had been killed or had already fled the island.
2009-04-23 14:27 TU
2009-04-20 13:12 TU