The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) said on Friday that they were ready for an internationally mooted ceasefire with the Mahinda Rajapaksa government.
The LTTE dubbed as “deception” the 48 hour deadline served to them by Rajapaksa on Thursday night to free displaced Tamil civilians.
The late evening statement by the LTTE, which appeared to be a response to Rajapaksa’s deadline, also made it clear that it would not allow the tens of thousands of civilians to move to the safe zone.
“Only a permanent ceasefire mooted by the international community and negotiations followed by it would resolve the conflict as envisaged by the Tamil people and the LTTE,” the rebels political head Nadesan, told pro-LTTE website, TamilNet on Friday.
The LTTE has been locked in a war of attrition with successive governments in Colombo since 1983 to carve out a separate Tamil state. But they have suffered big military reverses since August 2006. According to the Lankan defence ministry, the rebels at their peak had control over 15000 square kilometres. Now, it is cornered in less than 260 sq km. Nadesan said the 48 hour deadline given by the government was “giving an impression of a ceasefire to the outside world” but the government had “embarked on destroying humanitarian supplies in the safety zone.”
But the government on Friday seemed determined to go ahead with military operations against the LTTE and with more force after the deadline expires on Saturday.
So what happens after the 48 hour deadline? “We will continue to eradicate terrorism and liberate the areas,” Mahinda Samarasinghe, minister for disaster management and human rights, said.
There were enough indications here that the civilians were more vulnerable than ever before. The Minister said it was very difficult for the Sri Lankan army to distinguish between the LTTE cadres and civilians on the battlefront.
“How do you distinguish between civilians and terrorists? The LTTE is forcibly recruiting members and after giving them training for two-three days are putting them on the front. They are the LTTE’s eyes and ears. When they (civilians) carry weapons, we fire back.”