Last Sunday, President Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka announced a two-day pause in offensive operations against the opposition Tamil Tigers, in observance of the Sinhala/Tamil New Year. Over 150,000 Tamil civilians are trapped with the Tigers in a government-declared “safe zone” – a small pocket of coastal land in northeastern Sri Lanka which is the only remaining territory controlled by the Tigers. The Tigers won’t let the civilians leave and have shot and killed those trying to flee the area. Both the Sri Lankan army and the Tigers have shelled the civilians; hundreds have died since the start of this year. The two-day truce called by President Rajapaksa is a welcome step but more is needed. Both sides must agree to a sufficient pause to allow the civilians to leave the area safely and to allow in humanitarian aid for those unable or unwilling to leave. The Tigers in particular must allow the civilians under their control the ability to choose to stay in the area or to leave without being harmed.
As part of AIUSA’s annual “Get on the Bus” event, AIUSA members and supporters will be gathering outside the Sri Lankan Mission to the U.N. in New York City this coming Friday, April 17. We will be asking the Sri Lankan government and the Tigers to stop attacking civilians, to allow them to leave the conflict area safely and to allow in aid for those unable or unwilling to leave. Please consider joining us and raising your voice for the suffering civilians trapped in the crossfire.