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News


No ceasefire call to Lanka

Consensus at UN Security Council

A briefing by Under Secretary General Sir John Holmes to UN Security Council Friday (27) did not result in a ceasefire call to Sri Lanka from the Council as feared, but a general agreement that the LTTE must lay down arms and ease suffering of civilians.

Sir John’s briefing followed his fact-finding visit to Sri Lanka last week at President Rajapaksa’s invitation.

At the end of the briefing Sir John Holmes told reporters that humanitarian concerns about the people held captive by the LTTE remains a major concern while the concerns about IDPs who have already come to cleared areas seem less than what was feared for. He was strongly critical of the LTTE’s continuing ruthlessness in not allowing people to leave the conflict area. Sir John had good words about increasing cooperation with the government and made positive comments about the government’s policy and objective to send back about 80% of IDPs as soon as possible or within a year. He was strongly critical of the LTTE’s continuing ruthlessness by not allowing people to leave the conflict area.

Sir John appealed to all those with any influence on the position of the Tigers to use that influence to force them to let the civilians go. “There is no time to lose,” he said.

He described the situation of trapped people as dire but acknowledged IDPs in transit camps are reasonably well. He was not aware of any major outbreak of disease in the conflict area. He gave some descriptions of his conversations with IDPs and commented on the fairly satisfactory physical conditions and the efforts made to have acceptable screening procedures.

The President of the Security Council, Ambassador Takasu of Japan, was clear in saying that Sri Lanka situation is not on the Council agenda and that what was given on Friday was a briefing on a visit by Sir John Holmes at the invitation of the President of Sri Lanka. He also said in response to reporter’s question that Sri Lanka cannot be compared with other situations like Sudan where there are implications for international peace and security, as Sri Lanka’s is an internal issue where a government is combating a group described as a terrorist organization by many countries.

He confirmed that there is no formal decision for pronouncement about the situation by the Security Council but that all members were hopeful that the government will continue to do all it can to protect civilians and remain engaged with the Secretary-General and the UN team for that purpose.

The Japanese Ambassador said that one has to understand the nature of the conflict and the intransigent nature of the LTTE and acknowledged the precautions government had taken to minimise casualties. It was also well known that the Tigers were firing from behind civilians but irrespective of the source of fire there is great deal of suffering as a result of the conflict, he said.

The President of the Council reiterated that laying down arms by the Tigers will be the most practical way of bringing this conflict to an end. After the briefing several ambassadors to the UN told reporters that LTTE should lay down arms to end conflict.

The British Ambassador said they have all along been sympathetic to a briefing but made his position very clear that Sri Lanka is not on the Agenda of the Council and the spotlight should be on the LTTE which is a proscribed as terrorist outfit and they should lay down arms and allow civilians to go free so that the political process can begin.
The Russian Ambassador Vitaly I. Churkin was more categorical in saying that Friday’s briefing is a one time affair and that it will not go beyond that. This is an internal situation against a terrorist group which the government is trying to handle through military and political means.
Observers at the UN say that the LTTE lobbyist’s attempt to get UN Security Council to give them further breathing space through a phoney ceasefire failed to materialise. The LTTE has only to blame itself for holding civilians hostage and shooting the very people who were trying to flee to freedom. The government on the other hand seems to have scored by expanding its cooperation and assistance through the UN, ICRC and by the action of the armed forces who took extraordinary measures of restraint and precaution to minimise civilian casualties while taking more casualties among its ranks, they said.

Here are the individual remarks, on record, by Security Council member Ambassadors in response to reporters’ questions, at United Nations, New York.

Vitaly I. Churkin, Ambassador of Russian Federation:
Q: What is Russia’s position on Sri Lanka’s situation in the Security Council?
A: This is an internal conflict that has been there for sometime and it is coming to an end now. It is not on the agenda of the Security Council. Therefore, today’s briefing we think is one time affair and it will not go beyond that. There is no proposal for it to be put on the agenda.

Le Luong Minh, Ambassador of Vietnam:
It is a legitimate Government fighting a terrorist group.
Thomas Mayr-Harting, Ambassador of Austria:

The Security Force activity in Sri Lanka is against a terrorist organisation conducted by an elected Government. However, international humanitarian law must be respected by both sides. The Sri Lanka delegation briefed the Council Members at a meeting held at the Mission of Japan in New York where Mr. Akashi too provided information and it outlined action being taken regarding humanitarian matters.

Sir John Sawers., Ambassador of the UK:
LTTE is a terrorist organisation proscribed by many countries including the UK. They are cornered and under pressure and the solution to the current situation is the LTTE laying down arms and allowing civilians to freely move and for political process to begin.

We have received an interesting briefing from Sir John Holmes. The IDP situation in transit camps are not as concerning as once feared. The problem is those trapped by the LTTE. UN Secretary-General and his team can continue to remain engaged in this humanitarian situation and assist the process. The United Kingdom was in favour of receiving a briefing on Sri Lanka humanitarian aspect but the UK has a clear position that Sri Lanka is not on the agenda of the Security Council and it is not that kind of situation and the briefing was therefore received informally under other matters.

Yukio Takasu, Ambassador of Japan and President of the Security Council:
Sri Lanka is not on the Security Council agenda and there was no decision on the discussion or on that matter. The occasion was to get a briefing and there was no other formal decision. There are serious concerns about the plight of the IDPs and those that are trapped by the LTTE

Once has to understand the nature of the conflict and it is clear that the government is combating a group of people, the LTTE who are described as terrorist organisation by many countries and banned as such.

It was acknowledged that Government of Sri Lanka is taking a lot of precautions to minimise casualties. However, there are reports of great deal of suffering and casualties. It is well known that LTTE is firing from behind civilians and it is hoped that the government will continue to exercise maximum restrain.

A strong focus should be on Tamil Tigers as they are not allowing civilians to go to safety, freely in government controlled areas. There were reports that the LTTE has attacked and killed their own people trying to free themselves and go to government areas including a report about child suicide bombers being sent. They are also putting obstacles in the way of supplies and evacuations. Tigers should lay down arms to bring this conflict to an end.