Colombo: The Tamil Tigers said Thursday they would never surrender to the advancing Sri Lankan forces and appealed to the international community to work harder for a cease-fire in the country’s bloody civil war.
Sri Lanka has refused growing diplomatic pressure to stop its offensive against the rebel group’s last stronghold in the northeast to safeguard the estimated 50,000 civilians trapped in the area.
“If any country really cares about these people, I ask that country to go beyond its’ diplomatic boundaries’ for the sake of saving human lives and make Sri Lanka stop this genocidal war,” rebel political chief Balasingam Nadesan told The Associated Press in an e-mail interview from the war zone.
Nadesan’s comments came a day after the British and French foreign ministers traveled to Sri Lanka to push for a humanitarian truce and access for aid workers to the war zone.
In recent months, government forces have pushed the Tamil Tigers out of the shadow state they controlled in the north of the country and cornered them in a tiny sliver of land along the northeast coast.
The rebels called for a cease-fire Sunday; the government demanded the separatists surrender instead. Nadesan rejected that demand.
“Surrendering and laying down our arms are out of the question. Our freedom struggle will continue until (our) legitimate aspirations are met,” he said.
The government and international rights groups have accused the rebels of holding tens of thousands of ethnic Tamil civilians as human shields to slow the government offensive.
Nadesan denied the accusation, calling it government propaganda.
“We all are family. How could anyone hold his or her family as a “human shield?” he said.
He also denied reports that the rebels’ top leaders had fled the country, saying they “are still in our homeland and leading the freedom struggle.”
The Tamil Tigers have been fighting since 1983 for an ethnic Tamil state in the north and east after decades of marginalization by governments dominated by the Sinhalese majority.