(National Peace Council of Sri Lanka; Press Release; January 29, 2009)


In the battle for final victory and surrender of LTTE, the Sri Lanka government does not care who and how many civilians die and suffer – such is the scale of humanitarian crisis.


The Government’s intensifying military operations and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam ( LTTE)’s unwillingness to let people leave the remaining territory under its control in the North are coming at the expense of tens of thousands of innocent members of the Tamil community. The ICRC has said that more than 250,000 civilians are trapped in an area of about 300 square kilometers still under LTTE control and hundreds have been killed and scores wounded.  This civilian population has little or no access to medical facilities even to heal the wounded and dying. Unless a humanitarian corridor is opened to provide them safe passage to protected areas, it is very likely that many more of these people will die especially given their current concentration in such a small land area.


Despite international and local calls for the establishment of a safe humanitarian corridor, and for a ceasefire to facilitate it, these calls have been repeatedly ignored. The Government has frequently stated that it will fulfill its responsibility to ensure the care of its citizens. But there is little indication of this so far. While it has opened a few safe zones in the North, there have been no efforts to reassure civilians of protection and establish trust, leaving many afraid of the unknown dangers that await them in the safe zones. Tragically many people have been killed or injured in the safe zones from the fighting.


The National Peace Council urges the Government and the LTTE to recognize that the protection of civilians is an urgent and essential aspect of warfare. With increasing international attention being drawn to the Sri Lankan conflict because of the humanitarian crisis, Sri Lanka can no longer hope to battle a war that is insulated from the rest of the world. Recently Israel conceded to world opinion and declared a ceasefire in Gaza. Consequently, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, among others, has called for the safety of civilians through the provision of humanitarian aid and the establishment of a safe humanitarian corridor.


NPC calls for a humanitarian truce to establish a humanitarian corridor to safe zones that are internationally monitored. A humanitarian truce can lay the ground for mutual dialogue and confidence, save the lives of the internally displaced civilians and reduce the social and psychological pressures that will otherwise occur in the long run. We urge the Government to request the ICRC or other impartial agencies to obtain the concurrence of the LTTE to call a truce in the fighting and establish the corridor so that trapped civilians will be able to use such corridor to reach safe areas.


(The National Peace Council is an independent and non partisan organization that works towards a negotiated political solution to the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. It has a vision of a peaceful and prosperous Sri Lanka in which the freedom, human rights and democratic rights of all the communities are respected. The policy of the National Peace Council is determined by its Governing Council of 20 members who are drawn from diverse walks of life and belong to all the main ethnic and religious communities in the country.)

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