President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Saturday evening said the international community instead of pressuring Colombo for a pause in hostilities should convince LTTE to allow freedom of movement to civilians just for an hour.
“Let LTTE give an hour pause and I am sure nothing would prevent the civilians from crossing over to the government controlled areas,’’ Rajapaksa told a gathering of health and agriculture officials.
Though he did not mention India, his statement could be read in the context of foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee’s appeal on Friday to extend the pause in hostilities observed during April 13-14 during the Sinhala-Tamil new year celebrations
In fact, much before New Delhi had asked for extending the pause in hostilities against the LTTE, Colombo had rejected a similar appeal from Britain.
Foreign minister Rohitha Bogollagama had told the British foreign secretary David Miliband that a “longer pause was not possible because the LTTE has so far failed to demonstrate any genuine goodwill on its part in allowing the civilians to have free movement and there was concern that the LTTE would continue to consolidate its fortification of the no-fire zone (NFZ).”
Mukherjee made a similar appeal to the Lankan government on Friday.
Former diplomats and experts said India was merely paying lip service to the compulsions of coalition politics but was not willing to directly take part in the resolution of the conflict.
The Indian government was suggesting an extension of the pause but was not willing to say what would happen after that, said Bernard Goonetilleke, a bureaucrat who was part of the 2002 peace process between the government and the rebels.
Former diplomat K Godage asked how the extension of the pause would save civilians. “LTTE has used the cessation of hostilities to regroup and strengthen. This time they are holding thousands hostage to protect themselves,’’ he said.