No relief for Sri Lanka's trapped civilians

When I first heard this morning that the Sri Lankan government had announced that “combat operations have reached their conclusion” in the government’s offensive against the opposition Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in northeastern Sri Lanka, I felt a surge of hope.  Maybe the thousands of civilians trapped in the 5 square-mile area still held by the Tigers would be safe?  Maybe the government will reciprocate the unilateral ceasefire declared by the Tigers yesterday, so all the civilians could leave the war zone safely?

Alas, the hope didn’t last long.  The government said shortly thereafter that the earlier announcement wasn’t intended as a ceasefire declaration and that the army would keep fighting.  It simply meant a change in tactics:  the government will no longer use heavy weapons and aerial attacks which could cause civilian casualties.  Of course, earlier, they had also said that all the civilian casualties had been caused by the Tigers.  So today’s announcement could be seen as an implicit admission by the government that their earlier statement was inaccurate.  The Tigers claimed later that the government carried out air strikes against the Tiger-held area today, in contradiction of their pledge not to use aircraft.  Since there are no independent observers in the war zone, it’s difficult to verify either side’s claims.

Also in the news today was a report that the Sri Lankan government has denied access to the war zone to a U.N. team currently in the country.  Last week, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had announced that he was sending a humanitarian team to the war zone to assess the situation and try to protect the trapped civilians.  Today, a senior U.N. official visiting Sri Lanka told reporters that the U.N. had not reached an agreement with the Sri Lankan government to allow the team into the war zone.

The Sri Lankan government’s pledge not to use heavy weapons or aerial attacks should be welcomed.  If they live up to it, it might increase the chances of saving the 50,000 civilians still trapped by the Tigers in the war zone.   But we still need both sides to agree to let the civilians leave and to work out the best method of doing so, as soon as possible.  Anything else risks more civilian casualties.

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32 thoughts on “No relief for Sri Lanka's trapped civilians

  1. How much you talk and shout, we know for what purpose you do so. There is no crisis in SL. If you are worried on the trapped civilians, why not talk to Prabakaran and ask him to release them. Why do not you listen to the stories told by Daya Master who surrendered recently. He has disclosed who has killed IDPs in 300, 100 batches when they tried to come to the SL army. Are you talking from your mouth or any other organ for that matter. Why dont you ask America to not to kill Afgans and Iraq civilians. The ordinary mass of the world have now realised what you all are doing and for what you talk. You are another organ being used by the super powers of the west to talk against the other countries. We warn you all that we are buddhists and we have human qualities than any other people. Now the Buddhists have risen up against the murderes at last Like KUNG FU. Now you have no say. You talk and wait and SEE.

  2. This is in reply to LAL. How in the world you have this perverted notion that it is only the buddhists who support this battle in Sri Lanka confuses me. It is people like you who bring a bad name to this island with your racist type remarks. For your information everyone, be it buddhist,christian,hindu,muslim and all other religions and nationalities who want the murderer VP destroyed. We want peace in this land, so cut the crap and accept the fact that every SRI LANKAN wants it done and stop fuelling racism.

  3. How much you talk and shout, we know for what purpose you do so. There is no crisis in SL. If you are worried on the trapped civilians, why not talk to Prabakaran and ask him to release them. Why do not you listen to the stories told by Daya Master who surrendered recently. He has disclosed who has killed IDPs in 300, 100 batches when they tried to come to the SL army. Are you talking from your mouth or any other organ for that matter. Why dont you ask America to not to kill Afgans and Iraq civilians. The ordinary mass of the world have now realised what you all are doing and for what you talk. You are another organ being used by the super powers of the west to talk against the other countries. We warn you all that we are buddhists and we have human qualities than any other people. Now the Buddhists have risen up against the murderes at last Like KUNG FU. Now you have no say. You talk and wait and SEE.

  4. This is in reply to LAL. How in the world you have this perverted notion that it is only the buddhists who support this battle in Sri Lanka confuses me. It is people like you who bring a bad name to this island with your racist type remarks. For your information everyone, be it buddhist,christian,hindu,muslim and all other religions and nationalities who want the murderer VP destroyed. We want peace in this land, so cut the crap and accept the fact that every SRI LANKAN wants it done and stop fuelling racism.

  5. Response to LAL:

    I am disappointed by your response – Amnesty International in my mind have presented a fair view of the current climate in Sri Lanka – a humanitarian issue that cannot be denied. Whatever political stance or religious affiliation you may choose to believe in, the point is that innocent civilians are suffering a cruelty that nobody deserves. I truly hope that the revenge that you appear to be seeking does not manifest itself.

    I would like to thank Amnesty International and Jim Macdonald for remembering this forgotten humanitarian issue in one of the most unstable countries in the world today,

    Rathika

  6. Response to LAL:

    I am disappointed by your response – Amnesty International in my mind have presented a fair view of the current climate in Sri Lanka – a humanitarian issue that cannot be denied. Whatever political stance or religious affiliation you may choose to believe in, the point is that innocent civilians are suffering a cruelty that nobody deserves. I truly hope that the revenge that you appear to be seeking does not manifest itself.

    I would like to thank Amnesty International and Jim Macdonald for remembering this forgotten humanitarian issue in one of the most unstable countries in the world today,

    Rathika

  7. Thanks to Rathika for your comments. As a response to Lal's comments, I'd first point out that AI has been calling on the LTTE, as well as the Sri Lankan government, to allow the civilians to leave the war zone. I'd also observe that when someone attacks a speaker's motivation, as opposed to directly addressing the speaker's arguments, that suggests that the person conducting the attack is unable to refute the speaker's arguments.

  8. Sri Lankan Government hasn't lived up to its pledge regarding the heavy use of weapons. Instead, it has intensified the shelling and bombing inside the safety zone. Many have been killed and wounded. UN needs to send food and medicine to the Tamils – if not they are not only going to be dying due to Sri Lankan government shelling but also due to starvation.

  9. Thanks to Rathika for your comments. As a response to Lal’s comments, I’d first point out that AI has been calling on the LTTE, as well as the Sri Lankan government, to allow the civilians to leave the war zone. I’d also observe that when someone attacks a speaker’s motivation, as opposed to directly addressing the speaker’s arguments, that suggests that the person conducting the attack is unable to refute the speaker’s arguments.

  10. Sri Lankan Government hasn’t lived up to its pledge regarding the heavy use of weapons. Instead, it has intensified the shelling and bombing inside the safety zone. Many have been killed and wounded. UN needs to send food and medicine to the Tamils – if not they are not only going to be dying due to Sri Lankan government shelling but also due to starvation.

  11. In response to Tamil Genocide's comment, I know that the pro-LTTE website Tamilnet is saying that the Sri Lankan government has continued shelling and bombing in the war zone. The Sri Lankan military is also reported as denying this claim and asserting that their forces are only using small arms in the continuing fighting. Without independent observers in the war zone, it's difficult to check either side's stories.

  12. In response to Tamil Genocide’s comment, I know that the pro-LTTE website Tamilnet is saying that the Sri Lankan government has continued shelling and bombing in the war zone. The Sri Lankan military is also reported as denying this claim and asserting that their forces are only using small arms in the continuing fighting. Without independent observers in the war zone, it’s difficult to check either side’s stories.

  13. I know that people consider the pro-LTTE websites as being biased, but some of these facts are true in regards to how the Tamil people are being treated by the government. Currently, the government went to Vavuniya and took people over a certain age and loaded them onto a bus to check to see if they were part of the LTTE. We have heard this news through a family friend of ours that there nephew was taken and no one will know what is going to happen to him. We have also heard that young women are getting rapped. I don’t understand why the western world does not understand that Tamil people are being targeted and that there is genocide taking place. If the government had nothing to hide they should let international media in and Tamils will definitely not support if the Sri Lankan government receives the IMF loan because it will just mean more Tamils are dying. I am not saying that everything the LTTE does is positive, but the government has an obligation to protect its people and it has proven it will never protect us. The reason Tamils do not want to leave the LTTE controlled areas is that it is better dying there then dying at the hands of the government. Currently, there are people being ordered to strip down naked and walk these camps. We just want to have the same basic human rights as everyone else, is that so wrong to ask?

  14. I know that people consider the pro-LTTE websites as being biased, but some of these facts are true in regards to how the Tamil people are being treated by the government. Currently, the government went to Vavuniya and took people over a certain age and loaded them onto a bus to check to see if they were part of the LTTE. We have heard this news through a family friend of ours that there nephew was taken and no one will know what is going to happen to him. We have also heard that young women are getting rapped. I don’t understand why the western world does not understand that Tamil people are being targeted and that there is genocide taking place. If the government had nothing to hide they should let international media in and Tamils will definitely not support if the Sri Lankan government receives the IMF loan because it will just mean more Tamils are dying. I am not saying that everything the LTTE does is positive, but the government has an obligation to protect its people and it has proven it will never protect us. The reason Tamils do not want to leave the LTTE controlled areas is that it is better dying there then dying at the hands of the government. Currently, there are people being ordered to strip down naked and walk these camps. We just want to have the same basic human rights as everyone else, is that so wrong to ask?

  15. I agree with Priya. I too heard that young tamil guys and girls are stripped and locked inside a room so that they cannot escape from the Army controlled area. Where in the world these horrifying things are happening? Just because they are tamils they are punished. I'm not at all supporting LTTE but if the our own government is treating tamils like this how can they call tel they are doing humanitarian activities. They are also following LTTE foot steps.

  16. Response to Lal:

    Daya Master was captured recently and do you really thing that he is going to be telling the truth.The army is going to be torturing him and doing anything possible for him to make these false accusations.If the world wants to find out the truth, they should get the international world to interview him and find out the truth.Tamil people do not trust the Sri Lankan government and never will. There were satellite photos leaked proving that the Sri Lankan army was bombing the "safe zone". Palitha Kohona, the Foreign Secretary, said that it was targeting rebel artillery positions and that there were no civilians in the targeted area at the time.The Government declared the area a “no-fire zone” on February 12, urging civilians to seek shelter there.The images are based on detailed images taken between February 5 and April 19 – the day before the army breached an earthern fortificaton, triggering an exodus of more than 100,000 civilians from the “no-fire zone”. Finally, the world is learning all the atrocities committed by the Sri Lankan government.

  17. I agree with Priya. I too heard that young tamil guys and girls are stripped and locked inside a room so that they cannot escape from the Army controlled area. Where in the world these horrifying things are happening? Just because they are tamils they are punished. I’m not at all supporting LTTE but if the our own government is treating tamils like this how can they call tel they are doing humanitarian activities. They are also following LTTE foot steps.

  18. Response to Lal:

    Daya Master was captured recently and do you really thing that he is going to be telling the truth.The army is going to be torturing him and doing anything possible for him to make these false accusations.If the world wants to find out the truth, they should get the international world to interview him and find out the truth.Tamil people do not trust the Sri Lankan government and never will. There were satellite photos leaked proving that the Sri Lankan army was bombing the “safe zone”. Palitha Kohona, the Foreign Secretary, said that it was targeting rebel artillery positions and that there were no civilians in the targeted area at the time.The Government declared the area a “no-fire zone” on February 12, urging civilians to seek shelter there.The images are based on detailed images taken between February 5 and April 19 – the day before the army breached an earthern fortificaton, triggering an exodus of more than 100,000 civilians from the “no-fire zone”. Finally, the world is learning all the atrocities committed by the Sri Lankan government.

  19. What Daya Master says and is going to say is not the main problem. The main problem is the innecent people who are trpped in the no – fire zone and those who came into the Army controlled area cos they will be stamped as LTTE and will be tortured beyond our imagination. Whether International community gets to know or not, Sri Lankan government will never endose their brutal activities and there are big strong suppoters to Sri Lankan government like China, Russia and India. Specially India will give their untiring support to Sri Lankan government. So this issue will not be allowed to discuss in UN or anywhere by these countries. The future of those people is a big question.

  20. What Daya Master says and is going to say is not the main problem. The main problem is the innecent people who are trpped in the no – fire zone and those who came into the Army controlled area cos they will be stamped as LTTE and will be tortured beyond our imagination. Whether International community gets to know or not, Sri Lankan government will never endose their brutal activities and there are big strong suppoters to Sri Lankan government like China, Russia and India. Specially India will give their untiring support to Sri Lankan government. So this issue will not be allowed to discuss in UN or anywhere by these countries. The future of those people is a big question.

  21. AI is concerned for both the civilians still trapped in the war zone and those who've fled already. We just issued an urgent action appeal this past Friday (available on the AIUSA website). I'd suggest reviewing it to see what we're calling for now from both the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE. Of course, I'd also ask that everyone consider writing to both the government and the Tigers along the lines suggested in the appeal.

  22. AI is concerned for both the civilians still trapped in the war zone and those who’ve fled already. We just issued an urgent action appeal this past Friday (available on the AIUSA website). I’d suggest reviewing it to see what we’re calling for now from both the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE. Of course, I’d also ask that everyone consider writing to both the government and the Tigers along the lines suggested in the appeal.

  23. After reading all the comments, I have lost my head on what actually requires to be discussed.

    Lal – you cannot be harsh on AI, however, all others, as I see that most of you are Tamils – it is high time you tell the LTTE to lay down their arms and surrender if you really care for the people who are trapped. It is the LTTE who is not allowing them to flee the area and what organization who are not cowards would hide behind humans and enter a no fire zone ??

    Why cannot we live in peace as we do in Colombo and other parts of the Island ?? Why cant a Singlahees or a Muslim (or any other race apart from Europeans who come as NGO's) go live in the LTTE areas ?? I mean there is a huge issue here – I feel that the Issue is the LTTE – and the whole world including the Tamil Diaspora should pressure the LTTE to stop war crimes and terror acts immediately. Not send money to encourage them. But then again, most of the Diaspora have gone on asylum and would have to return and actually start working to make a living instead of collecting doles and donations for a living while doing nothing ha ??

  24. Priya – There is no reason why the SL army should check the civilians who cross over to figure out whether they are LTTE or not – I think it is time we filter and let the innocent civilians return to their houses where the others be rehabilitated. Today 2 LTTEers who carried out a murder in UK was captured fleeing the no fire zone – do U justify them being free ??

    Also – the LTTE them selves are shelling the No Fire Zone to mislead the international community – this is quite possible given their track record as they do no care for lives – we saw on tape how they fired at innocent civilians who were escaping ha ? They don't care for life – if they do, there would be no suicide bombers…

    Annonimos – Please note that you will not be discriminated if you are a Tamil – NEVER ! We know that because we experience it here in Colombo and many parts of the Island – but i doubt whether I could go to LTTE control area as a Singhalees and come without being killed. I am not sure about the incident of stripping a couple – but if at all it happened, I do not support it. But, remember, if it was any kind of a prisoner, it could happen – I know that Prisoners from other races would also go through it and recently we got to know how in humane the Americans treated the Al Quaida prisoners.

    Also please note that as a person who live in a community with all races, Singhalees Buddhists are the most compassionate – You should see how the Muslims over here react – they would kill prabha with their own hands if they come across him… They are that angry at him !

  25. After reading all the comments, I have lost my head on what actually requires to be discussed.

    Lal – you cannot be harsh on AI, however, all others, as I see that most of you are Tamils – it is high time you tell the LTTE to lay down their arms and surrender if you really care for the people who are trapped. It is the LTTE who is not allowing them to flee the area and what organization who are not cowards would hide behind humans and enter a no fire zone ??

    Why cannot we live in peace as we do in Colombo and other parts of the Island ?? Why cant a Singlahees or a Muslim (or any other race apart from Europeans who come as NGO’s) go live in the LTTE areas ?? I mean there is a huge issue here – I feel that the Issue is the LTTE – and the whole world including the Tamil Diaspora should pressure the LTTE to stop war crimes and terror acts immediately. Not send money to encourage them. But then again, most of the Diaspora have gone on asylum and would have to return and actually start working to make a living instead of collecting doles and donations for a living while doing nothing ha ??

  26. Priya – There is no reason why the SL army should check the civilians who cross over to figure out whether they are LTTE or not – I think it is time we filter and let the innocent civilians return to their houses where the others be rehabilitated. Today 2 LTTEers who carried out a murder in UK was captured fleeing the no fire zone – do U justify them being free ??

    Also – the LTTE them selves are shelling the No Fire Zone to mislead the international community – this is quite possible given their track record as they do no care for lives – we saw on tape how they fired at innocent civilians who were escaping ha ? They don’t care for life – if they do, there would be no suicide bombers…

    Annonimos – Please note that you will not be discriminated if you are a Tamil – NEVER ! We know that because we experience it here in Colombo and many parts of the Island – but i doubt whether I could go to LTTE control area as a Singhalees and come without being killed. I am not sure about the incident of stripping a couple – but if at all it happened, I do not support it. But, remember, if it was any kind of a prisoner, it could happen – I know that Prisoners from other races would also go through it and recently we got to know how in humane the Americans treated the Al Quaida prisoners.

    Also please note that as a person who live in a community with all races, Singhalees Buddhists are the most compassionate – You should see how the Muslims over here react – they would kill prabha with their own hands if they come across him… They are that angry at him !