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British leader's prescription for Lanka

Paul Murphy says parties in the conflict should keep communication lines open, reports PK Balachandran.

india Updated: Nov 16, 2006 19:47 IST

Paul Murphy, a former British cabinet minister now on a peace mission in Sri Lanka, has said that it is important for parties in the conflict to always keep open lines communication with each other.

Speaking in the LTTE-held town of Kilinochchi after meeting the LTTE's political leadership on Thursday, Murphy said: "We urge parties to keep the lines of communication open."

"This was the case even during the worst times of conflict in Northern Ireland," he recalled.

Murphy emphasised that there were no winners in this kind of war.

"The war absolutely cannot be won by either side," he said.

Currently Chairman of the British Intelligence Committee and a Member of Parliament, Murphy was British Cabinet Minister in charge of Irish Affairs between 2002 and 2005 and was involved in the peace process.

Murphy said that any peace process would have to be inclusive.

"Listen to views of all parties and take on all subjects for discussion. This ranges from human rights and humanitarian assistance to language issues and constitutional affairs," he said.

The peace envoy said that there were "striking similarities" between the Northern Irish and Sri Lankan cases.

In Northern Ireland, 3,500 people out of a total population of one million were killed in the conflict.

In Sri Lanka, the figure is 65,000 out of a population of 20 million.

"There were discrimination and human rights issues in Northern Ireland as they are in Sri Lanka," he said.

Manmohan to take up humanitarian issue with Rajapaksa

Meanwhile, the Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, told the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi that he would take up the issue of the killing of Tamil civilians in Sri Lanka "in an appropriate fashion" during his talks with the Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa in New Delhi later this month.

In a letter to Karunanidhi, the Prime Minister said: "We are making known our deep concern and anguish at the recent spurt of violence in Sri Lanka, which has resulted in civilian casualties among the Tamil population."

"There can be no justification for the killing of innocent women and children," he said.

Singh went on to say that India was "deeply and continually" interested in a solution to the ethnic problem in Sri Lanka in which within a united and federal Sri Lanka, the interests of its Tamil citizens would be protected.

"However, the priority at this time has to be to ensure full respect for humanitarian standards so that civilian casualties are prevented," the Prime Minister said.

Singh's letter was in response to Karunanidhi's statement wondering if it was not time India changed its Sri Lanka policy.

Govt,  LTTE trade charges

As world leaders expressed concern over the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Tamil-speaking North-Eastern Sri Lanka, the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE accused each other violating human rights and endangering the lives of innocent civilians.

The Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO), a humanitarian organisation linked with the LTTE, said in a press statement that the Sri Lankan Army and Air Force had been bombarding Maruthankerni and Kuchankerni in Batticaloa district continuously since November 8 unmindful of the fact that these two places were hosting thousands of refugees.

International NGOs had been barred from the Vaharai area, the TRO pointed out.

The Sri Lankan government's institutions had stopped functioning in Vaharai because of the shelling. Schools had stopped functioning too.

There were only two doctors in the only hospital serving 35,000 people.

The Sri Lankan Army, however, charged that the LTTE was using the civilians of Vaharai as human shields and protection for its artillery and mortars.

A press release of the National Security Unit said that Tamil civilians had fled the villages of Kaddamurivukkulam, Kirimichchikulam, and Komathalamadu and areas West of Vaharai, because the LTTE was using them as human shields using their settlements to position its guns.

The release said that 269 villages had fled from these areas to Ridithenne, in a government-controlled area.