Civilians rebuke European interference
The Peace Secretariat welcomes the latest efforts by the Sri Lankan
forces, which have enabled over 5000 more of our fellow citizens to
escape from LTTE clutches. It is also noteworthy that this has not been
accompanied by allegations of large numbers of civilian casualties.
It is noteworthy that, following the large exodus of over 100,000
civilians in the three days after April 20, the flood became only a
trickle as the Tigers built up their techniques of imprisonment. Our
forces could only move forward slowly and cautiously, so as to avoid
civilian casualties, but nevertheless they did move. It was however only
on May 10 then that there was another substantial number of escapees.
Internally displaced Tamil civilians
Understandably, immediately after that there were allegations of
massive civilian casualties. Sadly these were not false, for the LTTE
had indeed shot civilians trying to escape, and when this did not stop
them, they had resorted too to heavy weapons. They succeeded then in
stopping the flow then, and worse, they almost succeeded in throwing the
blame for their murderous tactics onto the Sri Lankan forces.
Despite condemnation from those who had not even noticed the purpose
of the killings, to stop the civilians getting away, the forces
continued over the next couple of days to move forward slowly and
cautiously. Their patience has been rewarded today with the liberation
of thousands more of our fellow citizens. The LTTE tried to stop them by
firing, but whether it was because some of their cadres are sick of
firing on their fellows, or whether it is because this time they could
not get away with lies because of careful surveillance, the brutality of
the LTTE seems to some extent at least to have been suspended.
The civilians have escaped along the lagoon, using boats and inflated
tubes and whatever will get them to refuge with our forces. They are
thus conclusively proving the falsity of the allegations made against
us, and showing by their determination to get away that one thing and
one thing only stands between Sri Lanka and a lasting inclusive peace,
namely the wickedness of the LTTE and all those who will not
unequivocally call on them to surrender and release the hostages they
have been living on for so long. Sadly, amongst these are several
European countries who sought to invoke a special session today of the
Human Rights Council in Sri Lanka.
Even though some of those who signed the petition may have thought
they were helping the cause of human rights, many of the countries who
opposed the move questioned the timing of the move, just when the LTTE
was on the point of defeat. Certainly some countries, such as the United
Kingdom and Switzerland, seem to have known exactly what they were
doing, and allowed domestic political considerations to trump genuine
concern for the suffering civilians.
Fortunately, despite desperate efforts, ranging from secretive
meetings in their homes with ambassadors in Geneva to peremptory calling
in of favours in capitals around the world, the Europeans were not able
to get the requisite 16 signatures to have the session on 14. Doubtless
they will still continue to try, but the LTTE cannot now take advantage
of such a session, to claim that Sri Lanka has been criticized by the
world at large.
It was also astonishing that these European countries did not consult
with countries in Asia, or in most of the other regional groupings,
before making their move. They may have counted on their general
prestige, but fortunately the prestige of Sri Lanka is high in Geneva,
and the rest of the world stood firm. Whether or not increasing
pressures elsewhere lead to a change, at least Sri Lanka can continue
with its struggle against terrorism.
Its strongest allies in this however are not just those countries
which have shown their support in a number of ways, but the Sri Lankan
people held captive by the LTTE for so long, Tamils who voted with their
feet and their bodies to escape to the safety of the government.