Sri Lanka President, Mahinda Rajapaksa on Thursday night served an ultimatum to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to release the thousands of trapped Tamil civilians in the northern conflict zone within the next 48 hours to ensure their safety and security.
Rajapaksa added that his government was poised to take decisive steps to restore democracy in the north.
In a late night statement, Rajapaksa said that his government would assure a safe passage to a secure environment to the civilians held up in the remaining areas under the control of LTTE.
``I urge the LTTE, within the next 48 hours to allow free movement of civilians to ensure their safety and security. For all those civilians, I assure a safe passage to a secure environment. I also assure all those living in the North and in conflict areas in particular, that vacating LTTE held areas will ensure their physical security and enable peace, freedom and rights for all citizens of this country,'' Rajapaksa said.
The President's statement came amid growing concerns over the fate an estimated 100,000 to 200,000 civilians caught in the cross fire in the fighting between the Sri Lanka forces and the LTTE.
``It is unfortunate that the LTTE is exploiting this declared safe zone for civilians by placing their heavy artillery within the safe zone and using it as a launching pad to attack Security Forces and indiscriminately kill civilians,'' he said.
Rajapaksa said that his Government has always been committed to usher peace in those regions so that all people of Sri Lanka, especially those in the North and the East will have the opportunity to exercise their democratic rights.
``However, all efforts for finding solutions peacefully for outstanding issues in the North and the East were repudiated by the LTTE and I was compelled to take measures to combat the terrorism unleashed by the LTTE on the people of Sri Lanka. In the efforts to eradicate terrorism and in the humanitarian operations to free civilians from suffering and insecurity, the Government and the Security Forces have been conscious of the welfare of civilians, their lives and property at all times,'' he said.