India must convince Sri Lanka to stop the war against the LTTE to ensure the safety of the thousands of civilians trapped in the north and encourage the government to offer a reasonable power devolution package to the rebels, ethnic Tamil parties told visiting foreign secretary Shiv Shankar Menon on Friday.
The request from the Tamil parties came at a day when the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) released a worrying report, which said that the last links with the trapped civilians were severed on January 9.
Menon on a two-day visit to Colombo met several Tamil political parties besides the foreign minister Rohitha Bogollagama and senior officials in the administration on Friday.
R Sampanthan, leader of the pro-LTTE, Tamil National Alliance, said that the foreign secretary was apprised about the plight of "more than 400000 Tamil civilians bottled up in a small part of Mullaitivu."
"I did not use the word ceasefire but it is imperative that the war must be stopped for the safety of the civilians. They are living in destitution and penury (because of the war)," Sampanthan told HT after the meeting with the Menon.
The leader of the People's Liberation Organisation for Tamil Eelam (PLOTE), D Sithadthan, said New Delhi must now put pressure on Colombo to offer a devolution package.
"Successive governments here did not offer such a package by giving the excuse that the LTTE would reject it. But the LTTE is very weak now. The devolution package must be offered to the Tamils. When the LTTE is defeated, hardliners (in the government) would say the Tamil problem is over. But that is not true. The grievances and the reasons (for the war) still exist," Sithadthan said.
Before meeting the Tamil political parties, Menon met Bogollagame and had discussions with him on the humanitarian situation as well as other bilateral issues.
"Reiterating that the Sri Lankan government perceives the Indo-Lanka Accord as the key to seeking a political solution to the conflict, the Minister (Bogollagama) observed that the present juncture offers a window of opportunity to implement the Accord, given the decisive victories gained by the government in combating LTTE terror on all fronts," the foreign ministry said in a statement.
Menon also met senior Presidentital advisor Basil Rajapaksa in the morning and handed over a consignment of medicines for the displaced in the north.