Sydney/Bangalore: Tamils appealed to Sri Lanka’s government to allow aid supplies to reach at least 230,000 civilians displaced by army offensives in the north as India said is it “concerned” about increasing fighting.
The military should cease attacks on the main highway linking the northern region of Wanni with the south to allow food and medicines to reach civilians, the Tamil Rehabilitation Organization, which is based in the region, said in an emailed statement. Sri Lanka said earlier this week it is taking steps to ensure aid is delivered.
Tamil civilians have left their homes as the army drives towards the headquarters of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or LTTE, in a bid to end the group’s 25-year fight for a separate homeland in Sri Lanka’s north and east.
Tight spot: The Manmohan Singh-led UPA government is under pressure from Tamil Nadu MPs who are threatening to resign unless it presses Sri Lanka to stop the offensive on the LTTE, which is harming?civilians. Subhav Shukla / PTI
India is “concerned about escalation of hostilities, the losses suffered by the civilian population and also the increasingManmohan Singh number of internally displaced persons,” Prime Minister said on Wednesday in New Delhi. “The situation does not call for military victory. It calls for a negotiated political settlement.”
At least 66,000 people are displaced in Wanni’s Kilinochchi district, where the LTTE is based, and up to 155,000 in Mullaitivu district, according to the Tamil Rehabilitation Organization, a non-governmental body. Most have been displaced in the past four months. Air force raids and artillery shelling targeting bridges on the A-9 highway are hampering the movement of supplies, it said.
A convoy of 20 trucks brought supplies, including rice, flour and oil, to Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu on 14 October, the army said in a statement this week.
The Sri Lankan government attaches the “highest importance” to the humanitarian needs of displaced persons and civilians in the areas affected by the conflict, itsforeign minister Rohitha Bogollagama, said during a visit to Australia earlier this week. Sri Lanka is working closely with UN agencies and the International Committee of the Red Cross to ensure the delivery of humanitarian supplies, he said.
India wants a settlement that “respects the unity and integrity of Sri Lanka and at the same time respects and grants the essential human rights of the minorities, especially Tamil minorities,” Singh said.
Members of Parliament from Tamil Nadu said two days ago they will resign within two weeks unless the Union government presses Sri Lanka to stop the offensive against LTTE that is harming civilians.
“The Sri Lankan government must declare a ceasefire and stop attacks on the civilian population,” T.K.S. Illangovan, a spokesman for the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam party, said in a telephone interview from Chennai. Illangovan said he spoke for 37 of the 39 lawmakers from Tamil Nadu who agreed to resign from the 541-member Lok Sabha. Tamil support was crucial to Singh’s 19-vote margin of victory in a confidence motion in July.
Tamil Nadu is home to some 73,000 Sri Lankan refugees, most of them Tamils, according to the office of the UN high commissioner for refugees.
The Sri Lankan government last month told aid agencies to evacuate their workers from the northern region, saying their safety couldn’t be guaranteed while fighting is taking place. The government has rejected criticism from Amnesty International that civilians are being ignored and said it is providing aid for refugees.
India’s government last week summoned Sri Lanka’s deputy envoy in New Delhi to express “grave concern” about civilians caught in the conflict.
“It was pointed out that there was need for the Sri Lankan government to act with greater restraint and address the growing feeling of insecurity among the minority community,” the ministry of external affairs said in a statement on its website.