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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2956

Allow the innocent Tamil civilians to go for their safety – a cross section of Swedish nationals appeal to the Tamil Tigers

By K.T.Rajasingham

Stockholm, 02 February, ( A cross section of Swedish nationals when contacted expressed shock and awe over the prevailing critical situation in Sri Lanka’s Northern region of Vanni, where more than 200,000 innocent Tamil civilians are being held as hostages and as human shield by the separatist Tamil outfit - Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

India, as well as numerous international organizations have urged the Government of Sri Lanka as well as the LTTE to allow the Tamil civilians trapped in the war zone to leave for their safety.

Sri Lanka Government designated a 35-square-kilometre "No Fire zone" inside LTTE -held territory where it says civilians can shelter without fear of military bombardment.

President Mahinda Rajapakse had given the Tigers time until last Saturday night to provide civilians safe passage out of the 300-square-kilometre (110-square-mile) jungle area still under the LTTE control.

As the LTTE rejected the appeal by the international community including the Government of India to allow the innocent Tamil civilians to leave for safety, the emerging precarious situation in the war torn Vanni has created a serious concern world over.

Asian Tribune contacted a cross section of the Swedish nationals who follows the tragic scenario in Sri Lanka with serious concern.

Almost all of them expressed their concern over the unfolding tragic situation and appealed to the LTTE to allow the innocent Tamil civilians to go for their safety.

Given below the comments of the Swedish nationals who spoke to Asian Tribune appealing the Tamil Tigers to allow the civilians to go for their safety:

Dr Nazeem Seyed Mohamed Ph.D - Professor Uppsala University. He is from Akurana in Central Sri Lanka and lives in Sweden for the last 37 years.

Asian Tribune: You may be aware that Sri Lanka Government voluntarily came up with a 48 hour pause in the military activities against LTTE. Sri Lanka President declared this pause in military activities because he wanted the innocent Tamil civilians who are trapped in the war zone to reach to the safer area through the "No fire zon" that has been created by the Sri Lankan Army. The 48-hour ultimatum has already finished. The Tamil Tigers have failed to allow the innocent civilians to go to safe areas. I want your comment on this.

Dr Nazeem Seyed Mohamed My Comment is very simple, Sri Lanka President has done a very good thing. He had given much different options and these options if you go through them; they are positive options for freedom, for peace. This 48-hour pause could have definitely saved thousands of lives. If this goes wrong then it would cause severe blow on thousands of lives. I am of the opinion that 48 hours was more than enough for LTTE to allow the innocent people to move towards the safe area. It was a very good act, but I am sorry to say it was not followed up.

If you follow the philosophy of Sun Tzu, who lived 500 years before Christ, and all his military strategies are used in the Gulf war, it has been used by Marxists, it has been used by Ho Chi Min and it has been used by several military generals.

One of the most important philosophies is that, once you know that you are not going to win the war, then you just have to stop fighting, because if you don’t do that, then you are going to risk the lives of people around you.

This is exactly what LTTE is doing to the innocent Tamils, as far as I see, if they are doing this, as I am reading from news papers, unfortunately this amounts to the betrayal of the Tamils. It is not a betrayal against anyone but against the Tamils, because losing one extra life is not worth it, this is how I feel.

Asian Tribune: What is the appeal you want to make?

Dr Nazeem Seyed Mohamed Leave the people alone, send them away. The war is lost, just go for peace, because you will save lot of lives.

In addition, after the Second World War, Americans and the British never punished Germany or Japan, but in fact they helped them to develop. But in the First World War, they punished and that was the cause of the Second World War. I hope Sri Lankan government and the Army will think the same way even if they win they should help to develop the country as a whole including the North and the East.

Deva Kahanda Liyanage: A business consultant, but by profession an Engineer, living in Sweden for the last 38 years.

He is from Anuradhapura – North Central Sri Lanka, at present had 3 brothers, but in 2002 one of his brother was killed by the LTTE, just before the signing of the ceasefire agreement. He was killed in Narahenpita, Colombo. Out of the three brothers eldest one is living in Canada, a Consultant for the World Bank, the second one is the Coordinating Secretary to Sri Lanka’s President and the youngest one is the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health in Sri Lanka.

Asian Tribune: You may be aware that Sri Lanka Government have declared of a 48 hours pause in the military activities against LTTE. President of Sri Lanka declared this because he wanted the innocent Tamil civilians who are trapped in the war zone to reach to the safer areas through the "No fire zone" that has been created by the Sri Lankan Army. The 48-hour ultimatum is over and the Tamil Tigers did not allow the Tamil civilians to leave for safe zone. I want your comment on this?

Deva Kahanda Liyanage: My comment is, it is a matter, you know that we should not be in a hurry to attack the Tigers, just because the time limit has expired. We have to wait and see about the developments. The second is that the Government has the army to surround the entire area, so that they can keep them under check, so that they can close on without having any causality of the civilians, because civilians should not be the target. Our aim has to be to get the innocent civilians released the people and to get rid of those who are fighting.

What I think is at the same time, we have to put forward a peace proposal saying that peace could be achieved if these people are going to lay down their arms and come forward for talks.

Asian Tribune: They say they want to have ceasefire and negotiation but the government said first lay down your arm and then we can talk. Demand of a ceasefire at the last moment when there is only just another 300 square kilometer of land under their control is left. This clearly indicates according to Government sources, Tamil Tigers are afraid that they will lose and will not be able to come back to Sri Lanka. That is the reason they are holding on to these people as human shield. Ceasefire at this moment, it is said that all the sacrifices of the Sri Lanka Armed forces will go in vain.

Deva Kahanda Liyanage: We must decide whether we are going to have either war or peace?

Asian Tribune: Issue is not about war or peace, at the moment, but the issue is about the people who are trapped in the war zone?

Deva Kahanda Liyanage: Yes, the people. We have to negotiate whatever the possible way available to safeguard the lives of these people. The main issue is lives of the people which is at stake. It is important that the government should show their civilized way of acting and we should not go in for any brutal act. If there is a window of chance available for creating peace, if LTTE is willing to surrender their arms, then you have to give them a good deal.

Asian Tribune: If they don’t surrender arms and keep the people with them?

Deva Kahanda Liyanage: They cannot do that.

Asian Tribune: In that case, what do you want to say?

Deva Kahanda Liyanage: I make an appeal to tell the LTTE that innocent people should not be the victims and they should not kill their own people. I am appealing to the LTTE that they should allow the people to leave, if they want to continue the fight with the Sri Lankan army, they can do that after releasing the people. Keeping the people as hostages amounts to killing them.

Christer öjdeby - a senior officer in Uppsala for upper secondary school for Education at the local authority level.

Asian Tribune: You may be aware that in Sri Lanka more than 200, 000 innocent Tamil civilians are held hostages by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a terrorist organization which is banned not only in Sri Lanka, but in all the European countries including Sweden.

Christer öjdeby : That is right?

Asian Tribune: Sri Lanka government declared a 48 - hour pause in their military action against LTTE, so that the LTTE might allow the civilians held by them to pass over to the safe zone.

Christer öjdeby : Yes, that is right?

Asian Tribune: Unfortunately up to now, LTTE has not allowed the innocent Tamil civilians they are holding to move to the safe zone.

Christer öjdeby : Yes, that is right?

Asian Tribune: I want to have your comment on that.

Christer öjdeby : My comment is very obvious; I favor the freedom for everyone. I am strongly against someone forcing someone to remain behind bars or I mean held as hostage. Like the situation you are referring, it means right now, a group of people living somewhere and due to special religion, ethnic etc.

Asian Tribune: They are innocent Tamil civilians.

Christer öjdeby : Yes, as civilians I think they are entitled to be free.

Asian Tribune: What is the type of appeal you want to make in this issue?

Christer öjdeby : I want the innocent Tamil civilians be allowed to go wherever they feel safe. Let them have their freedom of course, to a sanctuary of their own choice.

Margareetha Haglind: Marketing Manager, Europe for BPL Teas (Pvt) Ltd., A fully owned subsidiary of Bogawantalawa Tea Estates Ltd., Sri Lanka :

Asian Tribune: I want to have your comment regarding the 200,000 civilian Tamils held hostages by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam. You may be aware that the Sri Lankan Government has given a 48-hour pause in their military activities, so that the innocent Tamil civilians can move towards a safe zone. I want to know your comment about this?

Margareetha Haglind: You said Tamils?

Asian Tribune: Yes more than 200,000 innocent civilians Tamilians are being held as hostages by LTTE. Even after Sri Lanka President has given 48 hour time limit and stopped fighting to allow these people to pass to the safe zone.

Margareetha Haglind: Yes, the Military stop fighting and the Tamil Tigers are not allowing them to go to the safe areas, is that right?

Asian Tribune: Yes

Margareetha Haglind: It is very awful and unbelievable. I feel this is something deplorable. I learnt that there are sick women and children and if you are holding them it is awful and condemnable. They had a ceasefire for 48 hours and they are not allowing them to come out, something no sensible person will believe of this atrocious activities.

Asian Tribune: Do you want to make an appeal to them to allow the innocent civilians to pass on to the safe zone?

Margareetha Haglind: Yes, definitely. I mean every normal person with a heart will definitely seek to have a ceasefire to allow these innocent people to get to the safe zone. I am sure they are stranded and without food I believe and lot of them are children.

Asian Tribune: According to reports lot of them are sick and injured people and children and they all need immediate medical attention.

Margareetha Haglind: Ah .. ha. Is that so?

Asian Tribune: There are no medical facilities available for those civilians and now the Tigers are confined to an area of just only 300 square kilometers.

Margareetha Haglind: My sympathy goes with the innocent Tamil civilians and I want them to be allowed to go to the safe zone immediately. I appeal to the International Community to help the Sri Lankan Government to secure the freedom of these innocent Tamil civilians:

Earl Weiser: - A former Honorary Consul of Sri Lanka in the southern part of Sweden called Scania. He is a Sri Lankan born in Kelaniya in the Western Sri Lanka and joined the Ceylon Foreign Ministry in 1952. He later worked as a UN Diplomat. He is now 85 years old and living in Malmo, a third leading city in Sweden with his wife and children, since 1964.

Asian Tribune: Sri Lanka government gave 48 hour time limit for the LTTE to allow nearly about 200,000 innocent Tamil civilians to go to safe areas. The Sri Lanka Government also has provided a No-Fire Zone for the Tamil people to leave to the government control area, for safety and where they will be given all the necessary facilities to stay safely. But unfortunately the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam are holding onto them and not allowing them to move.

Earl Weiser: I think that is a very cruel act to do.

Asian Tribune: We want to have your comment?

Earl Weiser: If that is so, it is criminal to prevent the innocent civilians fleeing from trouble spots for their safety. Whatever it is, they should have the freedom to do so. This I think is very wrong and this type of situation should be rectified without any delay.

Asian Tribune: What do you expect the Sri Lanka Government as well as the Tamil Tigers do at this critical juncture?

Earl Weiser: That is very hard for me to answer, because I know that the government is on a large scale offensive against the LTTE - the Tiger movement. I know very little about the Tiger movement. Only thing I know is that they are involved in terrorist activities and they are banned not only in Sri Lanka but also in many countries.

Asian Tribune: Including Sweden

Earl Weiser: Yes, including Sweden. So it is very hard for me to answer about what to do. It is a war, however, I have personal opinions about this, because the Sri Lanka I used to live was very peaceful and a wonderful place to live in. These were errors that were caused by politicians who were self-seeking and they wanted war. They used religion, ethnicity and languages. Look at the people living together in Australia or American and these things do not happen in other countries. We have political issues followed by bloody conflict and I think that is the worst thing that could have ever happened in Sri Lanka.

Asian Tribune: Do you want to make an appeal to the LTTE to release these people?

Earl Weiser: Yes, I think this is what they should do - there are so many innocent people who do not even know what the world is all about and they live in their plane simple way of life and their family is faced with this situation which is not their own creation - that is the only opinion I have. I am not an expert on this issue and I would not want to make any further comments or judgment.

Dr. Arul Santhanam - A medical doctor in Stockholm, originally from Nuwera Eliya – the hill country of Sri Lanka, living in Sweden for well over 35 years.

Asian Tribune: You may be aware that about 200,000 Tamil civilians are trapped in the war zone in the Puthukkudiyiruppu, located in the Vanni region, in the Northern Sri Lanka. Sri Lankan Government gave 48 hours for the Tamil Tigers to allow the civilians to pass through the No Fire Zone to reach to their safety. The 48 hour time limit has expired, but still the Tamilians are trapped in the war zone. I just want to have your comment on this.

Dr. Arul Santhanam From what I have been reading and hearing, it is a very sad and bad situation for the Tamil civilians, and I don’t know, it is very difficult , it is a war situation in one hand, but the people must go to the government control area, I think for their safety.

Asian Tribune: Yes Governmnet said to has provided safe areas for Internally Displaced People.

Dr. Arul Santhanam Yes, that is right and on the other hand, from what I have read, but it must be so that the civilians have been stranded and in my opinion the international community including India will have to get into this matter very seriously and they should control this. It is fair for the civilians to get into the government control area.

I am not sure what facilities are available for these people when they arrived in the Government controlled area? It will be easier for both parties, if there is some international control of the situation. On the other hand one could ask what would happen once the international community intervenes including India if there is a plan after that for any development activities.

Asian Tribune: Recently India’s External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee after making an unscheduled visit to Colombo said that India is going to help the rehabilitation of the Northern Province.

Dr. Arul Santhanam Yes, I have read that news. That is what is needed to instill peace in that country so that all communities will have the opportunity to live in peace. I mean when these people have moved on to the safe area what is going to happen? Are they going to fight again? Or there is going to be some sort of a peace?

Asian Tribune: Providing safe zone, it is to safeguard the Tamils, but fighting with the terrorist is a different story, but the innocent people have to be safeguarded.

Dr. Arul Santhanam I mean both side give different stories, but it is the safety of the 200,000 civilians is what that is important. The International community, may be the United Nation have to be there to supervise the situation, then nothing bad will happen - there will be peace and both parties I think will abide by the rules.

- Asian Tribune

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