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News


Civilians trickle through

By Uditha Jayasinghe
In the wake of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcoming President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s announcement of safe passage for all civilians, a group of 116 people entered government controlled areas yesterday.

Military Spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara told The Nation that these civilians had managed to arrive in
Vishwamadu and Pulmudai areas uninjured and had been taken to camps for the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) nearby. He stated that 60 people including 16 children had managed to safely arrive in

Pulmudai while the remainder had travelled to Vishwamadu from the conflict area.
This group is in addition to 65 civilians that crossed over on Friday. However, the Spokesman noted that civilians trapped in the last patch of land still occupied by the LTTE had still not had the opportunity to take advantage of the safe passage period to cross over to government held areas.

“Civilians must travel for about 2-3km to get behind the front defence lines of the government forces. So far we have not had any reports of civilians doing so but displaced people from surrounding areas are still continuing to arrive. The International Committee of the Red Cross has not yet approached the government to discuss measures for safe passage,” he said.

These events follow close on the heels of an UN statement released on Friday praising the government for its stance of declaring a 48 hour safe passage. However, the UN Chief also said he was still concerned by the threat to the estimated 250,000 civilians caught in the area, who are in close proximity to the fighting.

He urged the government and the LTTE to “do all in their power to make this safe passage a reality, and to ensure the protection of civilians in accordance with international humanitarian law.”

The Secretary-General called on the LTTE, in particular, to allow civilians in the conflict zone to move to where they feel most secure, including areas controlled by the government.

He also called on the government to ensure that those civilians arriving from the Wanni and other conflict areas are treated in accordance with international standards.

“Such standards include guaranteeing their freedom of movement, providing basic services and allowing full access by humanitarian agencies,” he said. “For its part, the United Nations stands ready to provide the necessary humanitarian assistance,” the statement said adding that the Secretary-General strongly underlines the need for urgent steps towards a speedy and orderly end to the fighting.

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