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Sri Lanka keeps mum as refugees’ cries get louder

world Updated: Apr 26, 2009 02:04 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis and PTI

Sri Lanka was silent on India’s appeal to cease hostilities with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) more than a day after National Security Advisor MK Narayanan and Foreign Secretary SS Menon met President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Friday.

Though External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee spoke about cessation of hostilities on Thursday, it was learnt India did not press for it at Friday’s meeting.

The Lankan foreign ministry was tightlipped about the interaction. “We certainly discussed the situation of the 1.7 lakh refugees,” Foreign Secretary Palitha Kohona said.

<b1>On Saturday, AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa firmly backed a separate Tamil Eelam, saying that alone would end the strife.
About 50,000 civilians are trapped in the conflict between government troops and the LTTE. The LTTE said nearly 1.65 lakh civilians in areas controlled by it and accused Lankan authorities of blocking food and humanitarian supplies.

“We fear a further delay could result in a crisis similar to that faced in Darfur,” said a statement released by pro-LTTE website TamilNet.Com.

Hundreds of Tamil civilians fleeing the war zone arrived at Pudukudiyyurippu village, once a vital supply line of the LTTE, which now bears witness to its imminent defeat.

“The LTTE did not tell us anything. We are very scared of the puligal (Tigers); they have sophisticated weapons. How can we think of escaping?” said Arumugam, a villager.

A woman who fled the no-fire zone along with her four-year-old grandson said they had had enough of gunfire. “Enough is enough. We hope to live in peace at least from now on,” she said. In the midst of all this, journalists made a beeline to look at the birth certificate of LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran and his son Charles Antony, which were neatly laminated and kept for public view. Lankan troops also recovered the horoscope and photo albums of Prabhakaran in Pudukudiyirippu.

The more than one-hour long drive from Kilinochchi, the LTTE’s former political capital, to Pudukudiyyiruppu revealed scenes of devastation caused by the civil war that has raged for over a quarter of a century. An elderly man, who managed to give the slip to the security forces, said civilians were being shelled by both sides.

UN humanitarian chief John Holmes was expected in Colombo on Saturday for a three-day visit that will focus on civilians trapped in the conflict zone. UN chief Ban Ki-moon announced Thursday that an emergency team would also head to the violence-wracked nation. Meanwhile, the US has expressed deep concern over the plight of civilians. “We call on both sides to stop fighting immediately and allow civilians to safely leave the combat zone,” a White House statement said.