President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Sunday instructed the military to adopt a defensive posture during the Sinhala and Tamil new year on April 14 to facilitate movement of civilians from the ‘no fire zone’ (NFZ) to government-controlled areas.
A statement from the President’s office indicated that military will not carry out attacks against the LTTE to ensure that the displaced civilians also get an opportunity to celebrate the new year.
According to government estimates, more than 50,000 Tamil civilians are cramped into the 15 square kilometre NFZ. The remaining LTTE cadres including the top leadership are also hiding in the area.
The LTTE did not immediately react to the statement.
The statement said the no first attack instruction would give the civilians, “the opportunity to celebrate these festivities in a suitable atmosphere and to have uninhibited freedom of movement from the NFZ to the cleared areas. With this objective in view, His Excellency has directed the Armed Forces of the State to restrict their operations during the New Year to those of a defensive nature.’’
Rajapaksa urged the rebels to surrender. “It is timely for the LTTE to acknowledge its military defeat and lay down its weapons and surrender. The LTTE must also renounce terrorism and violence permanently,’’ it said.
UN hails Lankan move
The UN was quick to welcome the Lankan move. “I welcome the announcement made today by the Government of Sri Lanka that it will observe a two day pause in offensive military operations,’’ UN secretary general Ban ki Moon said.
He added: “this is less than the full humanitarian pause of several days I had pressed for but is nevertheless a useful first step and an opportunity to move towards the peaceful and orderly end to the fighting now so badly needed. I call on the LTTE to take concrete and immediate steps to protect civilians by respecting the pause, for its full duration.’’