Sri Lanka rejects Canada's call for ceasefire
Sri Lanka on Monday rejected a call by Canada for a ceasefire in the island's north, where the army has cornered Tamil Tigers in its ongoing fight-to-finish military campaign.
Sri Lanka's Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama conveyed his government's position when he was met by Canada's Minister for International Co-operation Beverley J. Oda, who is on a brief official visit to Colombo.
Responding to the ceasefire call by Canada, Colombo "noted that the last unilateral humanitarian pause in military action by the government on April 12, in the expectation that the (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) LTTE will release the civilians, was a failure", a foreign ministry statement here said on Monday.
"In fact, the LTTE had used the pause to strengthen its fortifications in the NFZ (No Fire Zone) and actively prevented civilians from leaving," the statement said.
Bogollagama pointed out that it was only after the Sri Lankan security forces breached the embankments and bunds of the rebels and released the civilians "from LTTE captivity in their thousands".
The Sri Lankan military says the LTTE, which had been fighting to carve out a separate state over a quarter century, has now been cornered into a small coastal land strip of less than 10 sq km and is "facing an inevitable defeat".
According to statistics, nearly 200,000 people have fled the war-zone and come to the government-held areas since the beginning of this year. They have been temporarily housed at refugee camps and welfare centers in the northern Vavuniya town.
A group of all party parliamentarians of Britain also arrived in Sri Lanka on Monday aiming to take stock of the humanitarian situation as a result of the military operation against Tamil Tiger rebels in the country's north.
The group includes the Labour party parliamentarian Des Browne who was recently rejected by Colombo to be appointed as Britain's special envoy on the Sri Lankan conflict.
Officials said the parliamentarians are visiting the country at the invitation of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa and is scheduled to visit the IDP camps northern town of Vavuniya.