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DateLine Saturday, 31 January 2009

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Government Gazette

Safe passage for civilians

The safety of civilians has been of paramount importance to the Government and the Security Forces throughout the humanitarian missions in both the North and the East.

In fact, the very term humanitarian mission denotes a campaign to liberate civilians from the grip of the LTTE. This was augmented by a Zero Civilian Casualty Policy that saw very few casualties in both Northern and Eastern theatres.

In the few instances that any casualties occurred, it was entirely due to the Tigers’ practice of using civilians as a human shield. In one instance in the East, the Forces who repulsed an attack had absolutely no knowledge that the Tigers were actually firing from within a civilian concentration.

Unfortunately for Vanni civilians, the Tigers are continuing this practice in the very limited area that they are now confined to. International humanitarian agencies have appealed to the Tigers to stop the barbaric practice of firing shells from behind civilian concentrations.

They are holding the civilians hostage in a conflict zone without letting them cross over to safer areas now under Forces control. Civilians who braved LTTE threats and rough seas and jungle terrain to come over to cleared areas have given the Forces a clear picture of what is life is like under the LTTE.

Various countries and organisations have rightly expressed concern over the welfare of civilians in the North, especially those in the last remaining resistance pockets of the Tigers.

The Government contends that it could have regained these areas much earlier if not for the civilian factor. This alone exemplifies the Government’s concern for the civilians. Moreover, food and other essentials were sent regularly to the uncleared areas.

The Government has not stopped at just assuring the civilians’ safety. It has declared a safe zone for them and urged the LTTE to allow free movement of civilians within 48 hours to ensure their safety and security. This assurance was made personally by President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

“For all those civilians, I assure a safe passage to a secure environment. I also assure all those living in the North and conflict areas in particular, that vacating LTTE held areas will ensure their physical security and enable peace, freedom and rights for all citizens of this country,” the President said.

As he said, it is unfortunate that the LTTE is exploiting this declared safe zone for civilians by placing their heavy artillery within the safe zone and using it as a launching pad to attack Security Forces and indiscriminately kill civilians.

The LTTE must face the stark reality even at this late stage that its days are numbered now and allow these civilians to cross over to safe areas.

The remaining Tigers are only exhibiting their cowardice and fear by hiding behind civilians. They are only delaying the inevitable. It is time they surrendered to the rapidly advancing Forces so that the Government can swiftly complete the mission of completely liberating the Northern masses from terrorism.

Enhanced Russia-Cuba ties

The Soviet Union and Cuba were very close allies in the Cold War era, but their relationship suffered in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union and much of Eastern Europe in the late 80s and early 90s.

Today, both Cuba and Russia have changed, with new leaders at the helm. Raul Castro, while still following in the footsteps of his brother Fidel, is keen to stamp his individuality on Cuban affairs and play a bigger role on the world stage. Hence his landmark visit to Moscow to meet Russian leaders including President Dmitry Medvedev.

This visit is even more significant in the context of anticipated shifts in the US Policy towards Cuba and Russia following the inauguration of new US President Barack Obama.

It is also significant that Russia is steadily becoming a world power again. Russia’s ‘rebirth’ as some analysts describe it could be a solution for the woes of a unipolar world. In December a group of Russian warships visited Havana on a tour widely seen as a challenge to US dominance in the region.

Nevertheless reconciliation is better than conflict. In a promising sign, President Obama has already decided to close the infamous prison at Guantanamo Base in Cuba. Now there are growing calls for the return of Guantanamo to Cuba.

Cuba expects that Obama’s decision to close down the Guantanamo prison camp “is followed by the decision to close down the base and return that territory to the Cubans,” a base that the United States “really does not need for its security and defence,” Cuban Foreign Minister Perez Roque has said.

An even bigger question is whether the US would lift the economic blockade on Cuba, denounced by almost every country in the world. The US should give serious thought to this issue as well if it wants to create peace and harmony in the region.

In the backdrop of these developments, enhanced ties between Cuba and Russia will benefit both countries and are likely to have ramifications far beyond their borders. Both countries will have major roles to play in a new world order.

‘Delivering the truth’ A polls watch with a difference

The National Polls Observations Centre is a polls watch with a difference. At a time when the credibility of such organizations are open to question due to foreign funding and hidden agenda, the NPOC was started by a group of professionals with their own funding without depending on foreign grants to ensure full transparency and independence.

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Another ‘bailout plan’

The civil war in Sri Lanka is a clear example of political collapse. Both Sinhala and Tamil polities lost their ‘good politics’ decades ago and hence we have the present war. However, after 1987 with the India-mediated peace proves, mainstream Sinhala political forces were compelled to rediscover the political path that had been negated.

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On a hallowed ground

THE great achievement of Martin Wickramasinghe is that he helped us look back without false pride and harmful nostalgia. Classical works of the past which had rested securely and unchallenged on the top shelf of our literary hierarchy came under the incisive and clinical scrutiny of Wickramasinghe’s critical gaze to be pulled down as unimaginative

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On My Watch

Tigers play the last human trump

It is time to see for how long more the LTTE will be able to hold back the civilians within its ever shrinking territory, and whether they will heed the calls by all who believe in the sanctity of human life to have mercy on those people, or use them as bloody pawns in the escape plans for its beleaguered leaders

Full Story

Political solution The next target

A Sri Lankan military victory over the LTTE is necessary for any chance of peace coming to fruition in Sri Lanka. Only with the LTTE gone as a military force from the island nation does Sri Lanka in general and Sri Lankan Tamils in particular have a chance for a peaceful and prosperous future.

Full Story



Gamin Gamata - Presidential Community & Welfare Service
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