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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2642

"LTTE causing severe hardships to fleeing civilians": President Rajapaksa tells UN Secretary General in Tele- Conference

By Ravi Ladduwahetty- Sri Lanka Editor- Asian Tribune

• LTTE has built bunkers for armed cadres amidst civilians it was holding

• TNA expected to respond to political proposals before the APRC

• Total number of civilians who have already crossed over was 45,519, and numbers were rapidly increasing.

• Food was being supplied, with larger vessels now being used for transport of food and essentials,

• Supplies being done through a regular turnaround of vessels, despite resistance and obstacles to this by the LTTE.

• Regrets on inadequate consultations with UNHCR

• Minister of Foreign Affairs advised to to have a full response on behalf of the Government

By Ravi Ladduwahetty- Sri Lanka Editor- Asian Tribune

Colombo, 18 March, ( Sri Lankan President Rajapaksa, in Mahinda & Ban Ki MoonMahinda & Ban Ki Moona telephone conference with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon last evening , said that the resistance by the LTTE to release the civilians held by it, has caused severe hardship to these persons entrapped by the LTTE, while there have been simultaneous threats and dangers to those fleeing the LTTE hold to Government held areas.

In a teleconference which commenced at 6.30 pm and lasted 17 minutes,
the matters revolved round humanitarian situation in the North, efforts of the Government to ensure the supply of food, medicines and other assistance to the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) , conditions in the IDP villages, political initiatives by the Government and the recently published statement by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR).

The President told the United Nations Secretary General that there was new evidence, including photographs which would be supplied, of the LTTE having built bunkers for its armed cadres in the midst of the civilians it was holding.

However, President Rajapaksa said that despite the threats of harm by the LTTE, there were increasing numbers coming over to the Government held areas, which he described as a positive sign, as the continued moving of civilians away from the shrinking LTTE held area would help ease the confinement of the civilians.

Providing the most current statistics of the civilians who had arrived at the Government held areas, President Rajapaksa told UN Secretary General that the number who had come over to the government area yesterday were 1,565 and that as at 6 pm yesterday ( 30 minutes prior to the UN Secretary General’s call) the total number of civilians who had fled the LTTE into the safety of government areas was 45,519, and that the numbers were rapidly increasing.

Responding to concerns expressed by the UN Secretary General about the food situation for IDPs, President Rajapaksa said that adequate food was being supplied, with larger vessels now being used for transport of food and essentials, and supplies being done through a regular turnaround of vessels, despite resistance and obstacles to this by the LTTE.

He said that statistics regarding supply of food had been sent to Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the UN which in turn would be channeled to the Secretary General.

Commenting on the military offensive against the LTTE, the President mentioned that every restraint is being maintained by the military, with clear orders given against firing heavy weapons at areas with civilians, including the areas held by the LTTE. He reiterated that no firing whatever was being carried out on the “No Fire or Safe Zones” declared by the security forces.

In discussing conditions in the IPD villages President Rajapaksa said that the facilities were being steadily improved.

In response to a query by the UNSG about telephone facilities for the IDPs, the President said that once the security screening was completed such facilities could be provided. He also cautioned the SG that at present it would be possible for some handlers of LTTE’s suicide cadres to have access to such elements via telephone which could result in major security related consequences. Some of the previous experiences where suicide killers had been given instructions from remote locations via telephone were shared with the Secretary General.

On the political process, President Rajapaksa apprised the UNSG that he expects the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) members to respond to his call to participate in discussion of the political proposals that are now before the All Party Representative Conference (APRC). He awaits a positive response to his repeated calls for such participation from even some members of the TNA, who are prepared to overcome threats by the LTTE in this regard.

The widest possible political discussion will be maintained among all of the polity, the President said.

In discussing the recent statement by the UNHCHR, President Rajapaksa regretted that adequate consultations had not taken place before such a statement was issued. Had this been done matters could have been clarified. He had advised the Minister of Foreign Affairs to have a full response on behalf of the Government in this connection, which will be announced shortly.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon welcomed this and said a continuous dialogue between the Government and the United Nations on the related matters would be most useful.

The UN Secretary General concluded that there was increasing cooperation evident between the UN and the Government of Sri Lanka and said this is a positive sign in the continuing relationship.

Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunga and Minister of Foreign Affairs Rohitha Bogollagama were present during the telephone conference.

- Asian Tribune -

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