The Web Sri Lanka In Focus

Saturday, 25 October 2008

India-Lanka discussions on situation in island nation tomorrow

India and Sri Lanka will have high-level discussions on the situation in the island nation, particularly concerning the well-being of ethnic Tamils, here tomorrow amid mounting pressure on government from some Tamil parties to act.
Basil Rajapaksa, Special Adviser of the Sri Lankan President, will hold talks with External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee during which he is expected to spell out the measures being taken by Colombo to ensure safety of civilians while undertaking the military campaign against the LTTE.

Basil, who will also meet National Security Adviser M K Narayanan and Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon during his day-long visit, is expected to bring a message from President Mahinda Rajapaksa on his intentions.

The Sri Lankan President, during a telephonic conversation with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last Saturday, assured him that "all necessary measures" are being taken to ensure safety and well-being of the Tamil community in the island nation.

Fearing that civilian Tamils in Sri Lanka may become victims of circumstances, the Indian side is keen to know what steps the Rajapaksa government is taking and planning to take to ensure their safety amidst raging conflict between the military and LTTE in north of the island nation.

Singh has already told the Sri Lankan President to ensure that the rights of civilian Tamils are not compromised and they do not get "enmeshed" in the conflict.

The fact that Sri Lanka is sending a high-ranking envoy here to discuss the situation is seen here as "seriousness" being attached by Colombo to keep New Delhi posted on happenings in that country.

The UPA government is facing intense pressure from its key constituent DMK and some other Tamil parties to act to end conflict in Sri Lanka.


India must stop military assistance to Lanka demands Communist Party of India

CPI(Communist Party of India) today demanded that India should stop military assistance to Sri Lanka and reopen and renegotiate an agreement that provides rights to Indian fishermen in the international waters between the two countries. Party MP D Raja said whether lethal or non-lethal any assistance provided to Sri Lanka now now would be used in war and this would be construed as a "collaboration" in the "offensive" against Tamils by that country.
He said the government has not not come clean on the issue and on the rights of the Indian fishermen under the Katchathivu agreement of 1974.

Raja said the government use its good offices with the Sri Lankan president Rajapakse and bring about a ceasefire and a political solution to the problem of ethnic Tamils.


Karunanidhi condemns attack on Rajiv statue

Condemning the attack on former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi's statue at suburban Kodungayur, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi today said strict action will be taken against those responsible for the "grave crime".

"Those who committed the grave crime will be arrested under the stringent detention law, the Goondas Act. Those, detained under the act, cannot come out on bail for a period of one year," he wrote in DMK's organ 'Murasoli'.

Karunanidhi said he had asked police to take stern action against those who committed the crime without any delay.

The attack on the statue yesterday triggered angry reactions from Congress workers, who staged demonstrations at various places demanding immediate arrest of culprits involved in the act.

Condemning the incident, TNCC President K V Thangkabalu had expressed apprehensions that sympathisers of the banned LTTE could be behind it.

Karunanidhi today said the crime might have been committed by some anti-social elments as "some mischief mongers" wanted to create friction in the relationship between Congress and DMK. "The masks of these persons will be torn soon."

He claimed that yesterday's human chain, organised by DMK to press the Centre to take stern steps to prevail upon the Sri Lankan Government to stop its offensive in the Northern parts of the island nation, was a "great success".

Despite heavy rains, people from all walks of life gathered and formed one of the biggest human chain, he said and thanked all those, who co-operated with the DMK in the agitation.


Tamil Nadu film directors remanded to judicial custody

Tamil film Directors Seeman and Ameer, arrested on charges of sedition for their pro-LTTE speeches on the Sri Lankan issue, were today remanded to 15 days judicial custody by a Magistrate Court in Ramanathapuram.

Mr Seeman and Ameer were arrested here last night for allegedly speaking in support of the banned LTTE at the October 19 rally organised by the tinsel world at Rameswaram to condemn the killing of innocent Tamils in Sri Lanka.

The Q Branch police, taking cognisance of the speech, registered a case in Ramanathapuram, leading to their arrest.

They were taken to Madurai by air this morning from where they were taken to Ramanathapuram by road.

They were later taken to Madurai and lodged in Central Prison.


'Kashmir resolution will help solve Palestine, Lankan conflicts'

Moderate Kashmiri separatist leader Sajjad Lone Saturday said a credible dialogue process between Indian administered Kashmiris and New Delhi can set an example for Palestine and Sri Lanka to resolve their conflicts through parleys. He also called for a boycott of the coming state elections in Indian administered Kashmir.

"If dialogue process in Kashmir becomes successful it can be an example for Palestine and Sri Lanka," Lone said addressing a news conference here.

The dialogue process between Kashmiri separatists and New Delhi has been as fruitless as talks between Palestinian groups fighting Israeli occupation and Tel Aviv.

The other major conflict, in Sri Lanka, has consumed more than 300,000 lives but repeated talks between insurgents fighting for freedom and government have failed.

Announcing the boycott of coming general elections in Kashmir, Lone called the exercise as an "irrelevant issue".

"New Delhi should first institutionalize the dialogue process," Lone said.

Lone who authored 'Achievable Nationhood', one of the many roadmaps to Kashmir's freedom from Indian rule, entered into parleys with New Delhi in 2006.


LTTE claims Lanka army attack killed civilians in Kilinochchi

Sri Lankan army intensified their pressure on the rebel stronghold of Kilinochchi, destroying bunkers, as Tamil Tigers today claimed that the advancing government forces had launched an artillery barrage on a village, killing two civilians.

"Sri Lankan Army carried out artillery barrage last evening targeting Sivanakar, a village 7 km west of Kilinochchi. In this attack former Cooperative Society Manager Sinaiya Ramalingam (68) and his son, a schoolteacher, Ramalingam Vijiyananthan (32) were killed," a LTTE statement said.

The pro-tiger website 'Tamilnet' said the two were shifting to a safer place when the attack took place, in which a tractor driver narrowly escaped death.

The Sri Lankan defence ministry reported heavy fighting in four places around Akkarayankulm, Iranamadu, Kokavil and Kalmadu areas, all close to the rebel stronghold of Kilinochchi. It did not provide any details of casualties, in keeping with the new government line.

"Troops of the 57 Division operating east and west of the Akkarayankulama Tank bund, Kilinochchi, made further strides into LTTE positions inflicting heavy damages to LTTE," the ministry quoted the sources as saying.

According to military, two separate confrontations were reported in general area of Akkarayankulama while sporadic fighting were also reported northeast of the same area.

Separately, troops of the 57 Division flanking the eastern Kilinochchi battlefront and moving towards Iranamadu area met with stiff LTTE resistance at around 7.30 pm on Friday, the ministry said adding LTTE suffered heavy casualties.


Heavy fighting as Sri Lanka troops push into Tiger territory: military

Sri Lanka troops were locked in heavy combat with Tamil Tiger guerrillas in the island's north where soldiers made several advances into rebel-held territory, the defence ministry said Saturday.

Two separate confrontations were reported southwest of the Tamil Tiger political capital of Kilinochchi on Friday and sporadic fighting continued afterward, the ministry said.

"Heavy fighting at the Akkarayankulam and Iranamadu areas has been reported between troops and LTTE since Friday morning," the ministry said.

It gave no details of casualties and said the authorities had decided not to release figures of those killed and wounded in the latest round of fighting.

The ministry said earlier this week it would not divulge details about casualties because of the "need for operational security." The announcement came just after the military reported 36 soldiers were killed in the worst single loss for security forces in the past six months.

There was no immediate word from the Tigers about the latest fighting, but the guerrillas in a statement said military shelling had killed two civilians south of Kilinochchi.

Defence ministry maps show troops are about 10 to 15 kilometres (six to 10 miles) southwest of Kilinochchi.

Tens of thousands of people have died on both sides since 1972, when the LTTE launched its campaign to carve out an independent state in the Sinhalese-majority island of 20 million people.


Lanka to censor war casualty figures

The Sri Lanka government on Friday decided to censor casualty figures coming out of the northern battle fields where its armed forces are locked in battle with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Independent verification of the fighting and casualties is anyway not possible because journalists are banned from the war zone. Both the LTTE and the Lankan defence ministry are accused of exaggerating enemy casualties and underreporting their own.

Also, claims made by the armed forces about LTTE casualty often do not match their own estimate of the Tigers’ strength.

The LTTE also seldom publishes the casualty figures of their own cadres. Friday's decision would make it even more difficult to get the correct picture of the war situation. The defence ministry said that it decided “suspend the reporting of all casualty figures in relation to the ongoing counter terrorist operation in Wanni. This is in consideration of the continuing advance of the security forces there and the need for operational security, whereby such reportage may impede the successful accomplishment of the mission.”

Meanwhile, an additional 51 lorries carrying essential services and goods were dispatched to the conflict areas on Friday, said Essential Services Commissioner S B Divarathne.


Military solution in Sri Lanka very difficult: U.S.

Asks parties to accept political solution without waiting for LTTE defeat

The United States is encouraging all parties in Sri Lanka to accept a political solution to the conflict without waiting for a military defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eeelam.

In an interactive session at the University of Madras on Friday, U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Robert Blake rejected Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s view that political talks could come only after the LTTE was wiped out or disarmed. “A military solution is going to be very, very difficult,” he said, citing Sri Lankan Army Chief Sarath Fonseka’s statement that even if the Army occupied all of northern Sri Lanka, a residual guerrilla force of at least a thousand LTTE fighters would go underground.

Mr. Blake made it clear that the ruling and opposition parties needed to agree on the All Parties Representative Committee’s blueprint for constitutional reform. “The greatest failure of the last 25 years has been the failure of the main Sinhalese parties to reach agreement,” he said adding 90 per cent of the APRC document had found consensus.
Three-fold benefits

“The U.S. view is that the [Sri Lankan] government could further isolate and weaken the LTTE if it articulates now its vision for a political solution,” said Mr. Blake. Moving forward on a political solution would have three-fold benefits — to reassure 2,00,000 refugees in the Vanni region that they can move south and aspire to a better future; to disprove the LTTE’s claim of being the sole representative of Sri Lanka’s Tamils; and to persuade Tamils overseas to stop funding the LTTE.

A political solution could also improve the human rights situation “that has disproportionately affected Tamils” and would hasten reconciliation, he added.

Mr. Blake felt that India and the U.S. could use their strategic partnership to good effect in Sri Lanka, where the two countries “share exactly the same perspectives, the same values.” While refusing to comment on the demands in Tamil Nadu for Indian intervention in Sri Lanka, the Ambassador noted that “with Indian help and leadership, we have a good chance of making progress on this.”

So far as the U.S. was concerned, he ruled out any military intervention on the island. In fact, the U.S. recently effected a complete freeze on all military assistance to Sri Lanka after concerns were voiced about the human rights situation and the use of child soldiers. However, the U.S. earlier “helped the Sri Lankan military defend itself against terrorism,” by supplying a maritime radar system and 10 inflatable boats to the navy.

The American ban on the LTTE, which was followed by several other countries, also cut the flow of money and weapons to the Tigers, the result of which could be seen in their recent military defeats, he said.

Today, most American aid to Sri Lanka was either humanitarian in nature or was focussed on building the economic and political infrastructure of the eastern part of the island. This year, the U.S. had contributed $32.7 million worth of food and other commodities through the Food for Peace programme, said Mr. Blake.


Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Sri Lankan government minister says India has a right to intervene in the ethnic crisis

Periyasamy Chandrasekaran, Leader of the Upcountry People's Front and a Member of Parliament for the Nuwara Eliya district today said India's intervention in the Sri Lankan terrorism issue cannot be avoided.

Speaking at the parliament this morning Minister Chandrasekaran said at the moment most of the civilians in the Kilinochchi district are facing more difficulties due to the on going war in Northern region.

He said there are no political solutions to the ethnic conflicts in the world.

Minister Chandrasekaran pointed out due to this conflict many Tamil leaders in the country have been killed in the past decades.

"In this situation people in the Tamil Nadu have a certain rights to intervene in the ethnic crisis in Sri Lanka," the Minister added.


Anti-terrorist exhibition in UK highlights Tiger atrocities

The European Community will get a first hand eye witness account of LTTE atrocities against innocent civilians in Sri Lanka when an anti-terrorist exhibition of photographs is launched by the anti-terrorist Sri Lankan Forum in Britain in several European cities shortly.

The first leg of this exhibition organised in collaboration with the Presidential Media Unit, the Foreign Ministry and the Sri Lanka High Commission in UK will open at the centre one hall at Cheswick Street London, near Scotland Yard Headquarters at 10 a.m. today.

A Presidential Media Unit release said Lord Nesby, a senior member of the British House of Lords will be among the main invitees at today’s opening ceremony.

Among other leading personalities attending as invitees will be, Conservative Party Shadow Foreign Secretary and former Conservative Leader William Hague, British Parliamentarians Stephen Cameron and Andrew Leet and Sri Lanka High Commissioner Nihal Jayasinghe.

A large number of intellectuals, media personalities and Sri Lankans domiciled in Britain will also be present.

The release said the Exhibition will feature nearly 280 large size photographs in addition to screening of short video films and distribution of pamphlets showing the LTTE barbarism.

The photographs will include those of politicians of all communities, from Jaffna Mayor Alfred Duraiappa to Major General Janaka Perera as well as intellectuals and other eminent persons killed by the LTTE.

The exhibition will also portray the massacre of civilians, destruction to property caused by the LTTE terrorists and their suicide attacks and conscription of child soldiers.Photographs depicting the development and stabilisation of democracy in the Eastern Province following its liberation from LTTE clutches will also be included in the exhibition.

When Sri Lanka is facing a decisive moment in its efforts to defeat LTTE terrorism comprehensively Sri Lankans resident in Europe too have rallied round to support that effort.

The second leg of the exhibition will be at the Hague in Netherlands on October 27 and 28 and the third in Paris, France on October 30 and 31.


Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Sri Lanka pushes war ahead despite Indian pressure

Sri Lankan troops advanced deeper into areas held by the rebel Tamil Tigers after smashing through a 10-km (6-mile) trench line that has been the site of heavy combat for two months, the military said on Tuesday.

And with diplomatic pressure mounting from New Delhi since last week, officials said Sri Lanka's government was planning trips to India and Pakistan to shore up support for a war it is increasingly certain it can win.

On Tuesday, the Defence Ministry said soldiers fought across massive earthen dams and trenches built by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) at Akarrayankulam and Vannirakulam, amid heavy monsoon downpours.

"Intense fighting was reported between troops and the LTTE over the long earth bund (dam) at Vannerikulam and Akkarayankulam, as troops made their first moves after consolidating their newly gained positions," the Defence Ministry said in a statement.

The military gave no casualty figures for the fighting.

The army on Monday said it had captured those areas after weeks of battles in the north of the Indian Ocean island nation, where it is trying to end a 25-year-old civil war.

The LTTE has been fighting for a separate homeland in the north and east for Sri Lanka's ethnic Tamil people.

Both areas are a little more than 10 km southwest of the rebels' capital of Kilinochchi along a curving front that extends west to the port of Nachikkudah, also the site of heavy fighting for weeks as the army moves up the coast and pushes east.


Soldiers are advancing toward Kilinochchi on several fronts, and the military says some of them are within 2 km of a target as strategic as it is symbolic.

"They have dug a lot of trenches to slow down our advance," retired General Hamilton Wanasinghe, a former Sri Lankan army commander and defence secretary, told Reuters. "It must be tough going otherwise we would have cleared there by now."

Defence analyst Iqbal Athas said Vannirakulam was "just one more village on the way" to Kilinochchi amid resistance and now heavy rain that has turned roads to muddy quagmires.

"It is indeed a long slog, and what it tells us is that contrary to what was expected, there has been heavy resistance and there will be more," Athas said.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa's government, dominated by the ethnic Sinhalese majority, is increasingly confident of winning a war that has energized his political base.

Local media on Tuesday reported that his brothers, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and special presidential advisor Basil Rajapaksa, would head to Pakistan and India respectively to strengthen defence ties amid heightened tensions with New Delhi.

Last week, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh urged Sri Lanka to find a political end the war and protect 230,000 displaced Tamil civilians, after protests led by Tamil legislators in his ruling coalition.

"The defence secretary may visit India and Pakistan for the purpose of tightening cordial relations on defence affairs," Defence spokesperson Keheliya Rambukwella said.

Pakistan provides weapons to Sri Lanka, which diplomats say rankles India but gives Colombo some leverage against a regional giant that has always been a major player in the war.

Singh and Rajapaksa spoke over the weekend on the phone, and the Rajapaksa's office in a statement released on Tuesday said the issue of stopping the war never came up in the discussion.

He also reiterated the fact that the government is providing aid to refugees from the fighting, the statement said.

Most analysts expect India to do little except press for political devolution deal for Tamils, since it already provides Sri Lanka non-lethal military equipment and intelligence about the LTTE, which it has designated a terrorist group.


Army advances will not end war

EVENT: The Sri Lanka Army is poised to capture the key rebel town of Kilinochchi, an army spokesman said yesterday.

SIGNIFICANCE: The army has advanced along the western coast to within two miles of Kilinochchi, the administrative centre for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. The capture of Kilinochchi would inflict a significant blow against the rebel group, prompting the government to say that it may soon win the three-decade civil war.

ANALYSIS: The Sri Lanka Army (SLA) has been significantly strengthened since the last phase of the conflict against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which resulted in a battlefield stalemate. It now says that the rebels are on the verge of collapse. The government in Colombo, which since mid-2006 has made crushing the LTTE its priority, also says that that the Tigers will soon be wiped out and the war over.

The recent advances follow two years of intense campaigning -- first in the island's east (in 2006-7) and, since 2007, in a four-front offensive against the LTTE's northern stronghold. The rebels have been running a mini-state from the town of Kilinochchi, the largest town in the Vanni region, for over a decade. Its capture would be a major blow to their cause.

Yet the LTTE show distinct signs of resilience, and a more realistic outlook is for further protracted and sustained conflict. The government's planned increases in defence expenditure and the military's fresh recruitment drives suggest that preparations for this eventuality are under way.

Questionable claims. Government assertions of imminent victory are based on equating the military's recent territorial gains to LTTE weakness. However, the SLA has made similarly impressive territorial advances before without conclusive results. The Tigers have appeared on the brink of defeat on other occasions, notably in 1999, but later proved able to blunt the state's offensive and inflict serious defeats.

There are a number of reasons why government hopes of an impending, strategic victory are unlikely to materialise:

1. Tactical difficulties. To destroy the LTTE, the military must achieve several goals:

It must steadily advance into the rebels' longstanding jungle base areas in Mullaitivu, in the eastern Vanni.

It must maintain effective control over previously captured territories -- including the sprawling eastern province and the Jaffna peninsula.

At the same time, it needs to protect Colombo and the south from bomb attacks.

A conclusive victory would require fulfilling these objectives simultaneously, which is a tall order.

2. Prior experience. Given these tactical needs, the military's recent territorial gains are inconclusive. When the LTTE launched a counter-offensive in 1999, the military controlled more of the Vanni region than it does at present. It held the ground from Kilinochchi's northern outskirts through Elephant Pass and all of Jaffna, and was advancing steadily up central and western Vanni. The LTTE then controlled only Kilinochchi town (which it recaptured in 1998, having lost it to the SLA in 1996) and part of Mullaitivu district. Nonetheless, in that limited space the rebels were able to mass sufficient troops and material for a significant counter-offensive, recapturing the entire Vanni area and going on to overrun Elephant Pass and southern Jaffna.

3. LTTE tactics. The SLA has significantly expanded in recent years, both in terms of numbers (from 100,000 to 160,000) and firepower. Yet the LTTE have done likewise. They had just two artillery pieces in 1999 but now have several more, as well as a large number of heavy mortars. They have also expanded their naval wing and acquired a rudimentary air force.

As in 1999, the LTTE's true fighting capacity is not known with certainty. That they have not resisted the SLA more strongly thus far is being interpreted as weakness. Yet it can also be argued that the LTTE strategy is more in line with a protracted 'war of the flea', with a strategic stalemate as the goal.

Resilient LTTE. The military is already facing significant troop shortages. Casualties and desertions are increasing, especially in key front-line units. Civilian hospitals in Colombo and the SLA garrison towns of Vavuniya and Anuradhapura are handling a steady stream of seriously wounded soldiers.

At the same time, guerrilla attacks and bombings are increasing in government-controlled areas. Although each individual attack may not be serious, large numbers of military personnel are tied up in efforts to pacify and/or protect these areas:

A recent attack in Anuradhapura killed a prominent former general together with 30 civilians, demonstrating the LTTE's ability to strike a key logistical and operational town for the SLA.

There are persistent reports that hundreds of guerillas have re-infiltrated the east, from where they were driven out after a year of campaigning by the SLA.

There have also been regular attacks against troops, police and Sinhalese civilians in the south, including occasional (albeit small) blasts in Colombo.

Difficult terrain. The military has had to work unusually hard to secure territorial gains on the northern battlefronts. In principle, its new assets and simultaneous assaults (on the Mannar, Jaffna, Vavuniya and Weli Oya fronts) should have delivered quicker gains.

Moreover, it is significant that Mannar is the only front where the LTTE have fallen back. A marshy area that is short of drinking water, prone to flooding in the monsoons and parched in the hot season, it is particularly harsh terrain for a protracted war. Until the LTTE's strongholds in Mullaitivu are captured, the SLA will need to hold Mannar -- especially since the government has made much political capital from its gain there.

Rebel staying power. The Tigers are suffering casualties, but the numbers are much lower than the government claims. More importantly, they are neither unprecedented nor intolerable for the rebels, who have previously demonstrated an ability to sustain high attrition rates:

The government claims that the LTTE have suffered 8,000 casualties this year. Yet examination of the data together with local press commentary and LTTE statements indicate that this is an exaggeration. A more credible estimate of LTTE losses in 2008 is approximately 2,000.

Even in 1997, the most intense year of the earlier phase of the conflict, the LTTE lost almost the same number. This represented more than 10% of the rebels' numerical strength that year. They nonetheless proved capable of a major counter-offensive in 1999 and 2000.

Crucially, while the military's 'teeth' units have been campaigning relentlessly for over two years, the LTTE's core forces have yet to be committed to battle. In the past year of resistance, the rebels have mainly deployed units of new recruits, including those withdrawn from the east, stiffened by a few experience cadres. Where core units have been committed, especially in Jaffna, SLA advances have been quickly stopped, often with heavy losses.

CONCLUSION: The military has made impressive territorial gains this year, but this does not amount to a strategic weakening of the LTTE. Similar territorial gains made in the late 1990s against a much weaker LTTE were swiftly reversed in a year-long counter-offensive which the exhausted military could not resist. In assessing the LTTE's capacity for survival, the rebels' present territorial confines should be compared to those of 1995-1999, rather than that of the 2002-2006 ceasefire period. A swift victory by the military is highly unlikely.

Source: Oxford Analytica

India hasn’t demanded halting war against LTTE: Rajapaksa

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa Tuesday asserted that there was no demand from the Indian government to halt the military campaign against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the northern part of the island.

Rajapaksa made the statement while addressing Sri Lankan media heads and editors at his heavily-guarded official residence Temple Trees.

‘In response to a question, President Rajapaksa said that in the telephone conversation with the Indian Prime Minister (on Saturday) there was no reference to the stopping of military operations against the terrorism of the LTTE. He (the President) had made it very clear that the operations were against the LTTE,’ a statement from the president’s office said.

Rajapaksa’s statement comes at a time when Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, at an all-party meeting in Chennai last week, said that all 40 MPs from the state would resign if India did not intervene by Oct 29 to stop the ‘genocide’ against Tamils in Sri Lanka.

Fifteen MPs, including two central ministers, as also Karunanidhi’s daughter Kanimozhi, have already submitted post-dated resignation letters to the chief minister.

However, Rajapaksa has told local media heads and editors that he ‘was aware of the political pressures in India at the moment, especially considering the reality of coalition politics and the diverse interests that surface in such situations’.

‘President Rajapaksa said that the friendly relations between Sri Lanka and India remain very strong. India had always helped us when necessary and supported us in international fora,’ the statement from his office said.

Claiming that it was the ‘primary responsibility’ of his government to look after all the citizens, Rajapaksa said that he carries out ‘this responsibility to the fullest especially with regard to the people who are temporarily displaced in the north, due to the ongoing military operations to defeat terrorism.’

‘There is a wrong impression created in Tamil Nadu that this not been done. This is furthest from the correct position. All these are our citizens and we take every measure to look after and provide for them,’ the president was quoted as saying.

Addressing the meeting, Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama said: ‘The recent developments in Tamil Nadu and the recent activities there did not reflect the policies of New Delhi.

‘The message of New Delhi has been that it stands for the rights of the Tamil people and against the LTTE,’ he added.

Bogollagama has invited Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee to visit Colombo to discuss the situation in the northern part of the island.

Renegade rebel leader Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan, known as Karuna Amman, who now heads the Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Puligal (TMVP) said at the meeting, that the support of the people in Tamil Nadu to the Tamil people in the north ’should not’ become support for the LTTE.

‘Mr. Muralitharan (who was recently appointed as a government MP) added that the military operations in the Wanni could not be stopped immediately. With his own experience in fighting, it was his understanding that India could not bring an immediate stop to the fighting in Kargil (in Jammu and Kashmir when Pakistani troops intruded into the area in 1999),’ the president’s office statement said.


Lanka says Mukherjee can clarify humanitarian position himself

Sri Lanka has said that it has invited Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee to the island nation to 'clarify' for himself the humanitarian position in the country.

Stating this Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama said that his government was maintaining a close relationship with India and shared a similar stand on the issue of terrorism.

“With the view of clarifying the position of the Government with regard to the humanitarian mission in the North, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has invited the External Affairs Minister of India Pranab Mukherjee to Sri Lanka,” an official release on the minister’s statement said.

Quoting the minister, it said, the government has taken measures to brief the international community of its position.

As far as sending a delegation to India, Bogollagama said, the Government so far has not taken any decision. But a formal request has been forwarded to New Delhi inviting Mukherjee, the release said.

Referring to the decision of several parliamentarians of the Tamil Nadu Government to forward their letters of resignation to their Chief Minister, Bogollagama said: “none of them have resigned from their portfolios yet”.

The Foreign Minister said the goal of the Sri Lankan government was to bring democracy to all parts of the country and pointed out that it has become a reality in the East after the liberation of the province from the “clutches of terrorism”.

He affirmed that in the near future the people of Mullaittivu and Wanni will be a part of the democratic process in the country as terrorism will be is militarily defeated.


Rajapaksa opposes ceasefire with LTTE

The sudden tumult in Tamil Nadu seeking an immediate truce in Sri Lanka has hit President Mahinda Rajapaksa where it hurts him most. But he is most unlikely to go for a ceasefire with the Tamil Tigers, regardless of what India may desire.

Until Tamil Nadu's DMK and its allies dramatically told the Congress-led central government to pressure Colombo to cease its military campaign against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) by Oct 29, Sri Lanka believed it was on the victory lap, with no roadblock seemingly in sight.

Despite a creaking economy, what favoured Rajapaksa was that large sections in the majority Sinhalese community shared his view that the costly conflict against the LTTE was about to end, on Colombo's terms.

The present war is thus the president's political lifeline. This is why his government contemptuously dismissed the LTTE's unilateral announcement of a ceasefire ahead of the SAARC summit in Colombo Aug 1-3.

Only the naïve can expect him to take a U-turn now when he thinks, rightly or wrongly, that his moment of glory is around the corner.

The military's ability to clear the eastern province of the LTTE and kill some of its key leaders besides putting the guerrillas on the defensive in the north made many to gloat in Colombo that success was finally in sight.

That is when Tamil Nadu erupted, taking Rajapaksa and his advisors by surprise.

In the process, India-Sri Lanka ties are under strain again. Anti-India sentiments are on the rise among the Sinhalese who until the other day were happy with New Delhi's military and diplomatic support.

But it will be a fallacy to believe that Rajapaksa's ire is caused solely by the unrest in Tamil Nadu. And it will be equally wrong to assume that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh needed the Tamil Nadu protests to wake him up to the grave and complex situation in Sri Lanka.

While Sri Lanka wants deeper economic and even strategic ties with India, this wavelength gets disturbed every time India does or says what Colombo thinks is interference in its affairs.

Much before Tamil Nadu's politicians roared this month, New Delhi had been telling Colombo repeatedly but quietly that there can be no military end to the conflict; there has to be a broader devolution process; bombings of civilian areas should stop; and the thousands displaced by fighting needed to be helped to rebuild their homes.

All these points have been reiterated this month - but loudly.

Contrary to public knowledge, Manmohan Singh has discussed Sri Lanka with select policy makers several times in recent years. But the one time he met the pro-LTTE Tamil National Alliance MPs in New Delhi, Rajapaksa was furious and asked editors in Colombo to "hammer" Manmohan Singh.

But Manmohan Singh has persisted. This August, in his close-door talks with some key political players in Colombo, he posed a pointed query: will Sri Lanka agree to a genuine power sharing minus the LTTE?

This makes many in Sri Lanka to feel that India may be trying to quietly keep alive the Tigers a la 1987 when it forced Colombo to halt a successful push into Jaffna, leading eventually to the India-Sri Lanka accord.

But 2008 is not the 1980s. The LTTE is today outlawed in various countries including India. And in this age of war on terror, no one can be seen to be on the side of a violently insurgent group.

However, there is one common thread to the 1980s and now: LTTE's determination to carve out an independent state and its confidence -- which its critics say is misplaced -- that the goal can be achieved yet.

The LTTE is telling the population in the area it controls that it needs only two more months to turn the tables on Colombo. It is also furiously enlisting Tamils, including the young, to fight on.

As for Sri Lanka, Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who presides over the war machine, has declared that no purpose will be served by a ceasefire.

As long as both Colombo and the Tigers do not agree to sincerely embrace peace, there can be no lasting truce to a conflict that has foxed even Norway, veterans in conflict resolution. Can Tamil Nadu succeed where Oslo failed ?


India steps in, sends relief supplies to Lankan Tamils

India has started sending humanitarian aid for Tamil civilians trapped in the battle zone in north Sri Lanka.

Announcing this at a press conference here on Monday, convened ahead of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s trip to China and Japan, Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon said some supplies had already been sent through agencies such as the International Committee of the Red Cross. Some convoys had got through to the people trapped in the fighting and Delhi was trying to ensure that its supplies too reached them through such agencies.

Menon said India saw the present situation in Sri Lanka as a humanitarian crises. On the larger issue of settling the conflict, Delhi continued to suggest a political settlement within a united Sri Lanka in which all communities were "comfortable." He said the conflict could not be settled militarily.

Without giving details, Menon said the aid was expected to be in the form of food and other essential items for civilians trapped in or around the war zone, as the Sri Lankan army tried to wrest Killinochi town and others areas from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

The present gesture makes a political point. But it cannot be compared with the 1987 symbolic air drop of relief supplies when the Sri Lankan military laid siege to Jaffna peninsula.

That was seen as arm-twisting by Delhi.

This time the relief supplies will go through international agencies, with Sri Lanka’s concurrence.

Menon did not confirm reports that External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee was travelling to Colombo to discuss the crises with the Sri Lankan government.

"Nothing is settled" on the issue, he said.


Victory against LTTE delayed by concern over civilains: Rajapaksa

As India was mounting pressure on Sri Lanka to ensure the safety of Tamil civilians caught in the war zone, President Mahinda Rajapaksa has said that the victory against the Tamil Tiger rebels was “prolonged” due his government’s “grave concern” for civilians, media reports here said Tuesday.Addressing an award ceremony in Colombo Monday, Rajapaksa, who is also the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, has said that his government has “directed the armed forces to refrain from inflicting any harm, even a scratch, to the innocent civilians who are being utilised as human shields by the terrorists in the Wanni”.

“The battle against terrorism, which we could convincingly win within a few days, is nevertheless prolonged due to the grave concern and the optimum caution exercised by the highly disciplined armed forces who are fighting under severe constraints, to cause no harm or loss to innocent, civilian human life,” the state-run Daily News quoted Rajapaksa as saying.

“We are proud to have an army which is complying and carrying out their humanitarian operations accordingly,” he said, claiming that Sri Lanka was the only country to provide “food and other essentials to a ruthless terrorist outfit, while simultaneously fighting them”.

In a telephone conversation with Rajapaksa, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had Saturday expressed India’s “deep concern on the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the north of Sri Lanka, especially on the plight of the civilians caught in the hostilities”.

Stressing that “the safety and the security of these civilians must be safeguarded at all costs”, Singh also said that “the rights and the welfare of the Tamil community of Sri Lanka should not get enmeshed in the on-going hostilities against the LTTE”.

Singh also reiterated that there was “no military solution” to the conflict and urged Rajapaksa “to start a political process for a peacefully negotiated political settlement within the framework of a united Sri Lanka”.

India’s reiteration of concern for Tamil civilians in the island’s north came a few days after Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, at an all-party meeting last week, threatened that all 40 MPs from Tamil Nadu would resign if India did not intervene to stop the “genocide” against Tamils in Sri Lanka before Oct 29.

Fifteen MPs of DMK, a key ally of the Manmohan Singh government and the ruling party of Tamil Nadu, have already handed over post-dated resignations over the situation in Sri Lanka.


Monday, 20 October 2008

Indian alarm as major Sri Lankan battle looms

INDIA is preparing to send its foreign minister to Sri Lanka to deliver a stern warning to the Colombo Government amid reports that one of the most crucial battles in the 25-year war against the Tamil Tigers is imminent.

No date has been set for the visit by Pranab Mukherjee as concerns mount among India's Tamil population that the Sri Lankan army has over-run the Tigers' last major defences south of their headquarters.

India is seeking to halt the Sri Lankan army as it closes in on the rebel stronghold amid fears a major humanitarian tragedy is in the making.

In a series of tense telephone calls with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has in effect warned the Sri Lankan army to hold back and avoid creating a new wave of refugees from the fighting.

Mr Singh's warning has been spurred by the growing outcry against the Sri Lankan offensive among the 60 million Tamils in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu, who sympathise with their kinfolk in Sri Lanka. However, analysts believe Mr Singh is unlikely to succeed, despite his clout in the region.

Sri Lanka's powerful Defence Minister, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, who is the President's brother, said yesterday the Tamil Tigers were on the verge of defeat and suffering huge casualties, and that they were trying to "rope in" India in a last-gasp attempt to get the offensive halted.

"It is very clear the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) is at a decisive stage. And no-one can stop them getting defeated. So they are trying their maximum to get Tamil Nadu to pressure the Indian Government to pressure the Sri Lankan Government," Mr Gotabhaya Rajapaksa said.

Nearly 40 MPs from India's ruling national coalition Government, including six ministers, have handed in resignations to protest at the Sri Lankan army's offensive against the rebels, and have demanded action by the New Delhi Government to force Colombo to halt the action.

Reports yesterday suggested that Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, who comes from south India, could quit.

New Delhi is making it clear it is not planning any sort of military intervention in Sri Lanka similar to that which preceded former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi's assassination by the LTTE. However, it is determined that the Sri Lankan Government understands there can be no military solution to the conflict in the island nation.

New Delhi fears that if Colombo is allowed to achieve the sort of military victory that now looks likely, it will spell the end of political reforms designed to accommodate the ambitions of the Tamil community.

The reports yesterday claimed the Sri Lankan army's 57th division had pierced the Tamil Tiger defences south of the rebel headquarters at Kilinochchi, and said 19 of their fortified bunkers had been overrun.


Sunday, 19 October 2008

Film personalities lead huge rally

Over 2,000 members from the Tamil film world, led by noted director Bharatirajaa, led a rally here on Sunday, demanding a halt to the Sri Lankan Army's ongoing offensive in the northern part of the island nation.

The film personalities had arrived here yesterday by a special train from Chennai. However, none of the top actors or actresses took part in the rally.

Among those present were directors like K Bhagyaraj, Parthiban, Cheran and Santhana Bharathy and Tamil film council producers president Rama Narayanan.

Speakers at the rally urged the Centre to take immediate steps to stop the alleged 'massacre' of Tamils in Sri lanka.

Bharathirajaa, who spoke to reporters later, said the rally was an opportunity for the film fraternity to express their solidarity with the Tamils in Sri Lanka. The coming together of the industry would attract everyone's attention, he said, adding that they were confident that a solution would soon be found.

"Those who have sympathy for the Tamils have gathered for the rally," he said.

Actor Sarath Kumar, who is the president of the South Indian Film Artistes Association, said that top actors and actresses would stage a fast at Chennai on November 1 on the Sri Lankan Tamil issue.

The rally commenced after prayers were offered at the famous Ramanathaswamy temple here for the well being of Sri Lankan Tamils.


DMK supporting a terrorist organisation: Janata Party

Janata Party President Subramaniam Swamy on Sunday attacked Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi for seeking a halt in military operations against the LTTE in Sri Lanka, saying it amounted to supporting the terrorist organisation and being "anti-national".

Holding the LTTE responsible for the killing of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, he wondered why Congress is listening to the DMK on this issue and demanded dismissal of the DMK government for indulging in "anti-national" activities.

"Karunanidhi's concerns for the Tamils in Sri Lanka are bogus. If he really wants to do something for them, he should fight with the Centre for the renewal of reservation announced for the children of Tamil refugees," he told reporters here.

He said these reservations for Sri Lankan Tamil students were announced by the Rajiv Gandhi Government in 1988 when Tamil Nadu was under President's rule and the UPA Government discontinued it, saying it was "unconstitutional".

The Janata Party chief also claimed that three LTTE cadres who were injured in the ongoing militray offensive are being treated at a hospital in Vellore in Tamil Nadu.

Swamy said his party will explore if some seat adjustments are possible in view of elections in Madhya Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir with the BJP, which is the "ideologically closest party".

"We are trying to ensure that the anti-UPA votes are not split in setting up of candidates and have decided to hold discussions with BJP whose ideology is close to ours," he said.

Accusing Finance Minister P Chidambaram of failing to control inflation and the current crisis in the markets, he said he should step down on moral grounds.


LTTE seeking help of Indian leaders to escape defeat:Gotabhaya

Claiming that the LTTE was on the verge of "defeat" after suffering huge casualties at the hands of Sri Lankan security forces, the government has said that the Tamil tigers are making desperate efforts to rope in Indian leaders to stop the ongoing offensives against them.

"It is very clear that the LTTE is at a decisive stage. And no one can stop them getting defeated. So, they are trying their maximum to get Tamil Nadu (leaders) to pressurise the Indian government to pressurise the Sri Lankan government," Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, powerful Defence Secretary and brother of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, said.

"That is what the LTTE want and that is why this sudden pressure is coming. The (Sri Lankan) Government expects this situation as we know there is no other way for the LTTE. Anyway, the LTTE cannot escape facing military offensives now," he told the Sunday Observer.

Gotabhaya comment comes a day after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh yesterday asked President Rajapaksa to ensure that Tamils do not get "enmeshed" in the conflict with LTTE and that their rights and safety are upheld.

During a telephonic conversation initiated by Rajapaksa, Singh said there could be no military solution to the conflict in the island country and asked the President to start a political process for a peacefully negotiated settlement within the framework of a united Sri Lanka.

Rajapaksa also sought reciprocity from India on permitting fishing in each others territorial waters.

"For the last three years we have never prosecuted a single Indian fisherman though they are coming to our areas. Though we have arrested and questioned them, they were not subjected to any legal process," he said and alleged that Sri Lankan fishermen have been arrested, prosecuted and detained for over two to three months.


Several ministers, MPs offer to quit on Sri Lanka Tamil issue

Several Indian ministers, and MPs have offered to quit on Sri Lanka Tamils issue. The issue is getting hotter with every passing day and if Sri Lanka is not able to resolve the issue, the Sri Lankan Tamil issue may well become a major election plank in this South Indian state of Tamil Nadu, from where Sri Lankan Tamil originally belonged.

Every Tamil party is trying to cash in on charged up atmosphere in Tamil Nadu on the issue of Sri Lankan Tamil safety in the island nation.

Seven ministers in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh government have submitted their resignation to their party boss and Tamil Nadu chief minister M Karunanidhi. Seven other members of Indian Parliament have also submitted their resignations and have handed over it to Karunanidhi.

With Karunanidhi repeatedly saying that he can go to any extent on the issue, Manmohan Singh government is under tremendous pressure on the issue.

The Prime Minister yesterday in a telephonic conversation with Sri Lanka president asked him to ensure the safety of Tamils in his country.

Prime Minister Singh said that Tamil community in Sri Lanka should not get enmeshed in the on-going hostilities against the LTTE and that the rights and safety of Tamils there are upheld.

The Sri Lankan President called Dr Singh on Saturday to discuss the situation on the island. Expressing concern at the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the north of Sri Lanka, as civilians were caught up in hostilities, Dr Singh requested Lanka to ensure uninterrupted relief supplies to internally displaced persons.

A statement from Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said “President Rajapakse assured the Prime Minister that all necessary measures are being taken to ensure the safety and well-being of the community in Sri Lanka”.

Manmohan Singh also reiterated there was no military solution to the conflict and urged the President to start a political process for a negotiated political settlement within the framework of a united Lanka. “The Prime Minister asked President Rajapaksa to instruct the Sri Lankan Navy to desist from firing on Indian fishermen and reiterated that killing of fishermen is unacceptable,” the PMO statement added.

Source: khabrein

Food delivered to war-displaced civilians in Sri Lanka

The World Food Programme on Saturday delivered 750 metric tonnes of food to an estimated 2,30,000 civilians in the country’s north, where the military and the LTTE are engaged in battles.

The United States Office’s statement here said the convoy, consisting of staff and vehicles from a number of UN agencies, has delivered the food. It also monitored the distribution at three locations where there is a heavy concentration of civilians, before driving back to Vavuniya.

“The convoy had been forced to turn around on Thursday after heavy-weapon fire disrupted its route to the north. After receiving renewed assurances of safe passage from both parties to the conflict, the 50 trucks and nine support vehicles drove through heavy rain on Friday to reach the displaced civilians. Food is being distributed from the three locations by government agent networks,” it said.

Separately, the military said the Kilinochchi battlefront has been intensely active since Saturday as soldiers of the 57th Division “cleared the LTTE-built earth-bund from both the east and west of Akkarayankulam Tank.”

A Defence Ministry statement said soldiers have entered the remaining LTTE ‘hiding areas’ north of Akkarayankulam Tank. It further said Task Force 1 soldiers, operating south of Nachchikudha, commenced their offensive on Saturday. Simultaneously, soldiers are continuing to maintain their southward thrust from Pallawarayankaddu south.

“At present, Task Force 1 soldiers have cut off all land access routes available for the terrorists trapped in their Nachchikudha stronghold. Troops manning the blockades in Nachhcikudaha have thwarted two LTTE reinforcement attempts this morning,” it said.

The Ministry said soldiers attacked 25 LTTE cadre near Pallawarayankaddu and another group in Madam. “Intercepted radio transmissions revealed that terrorist leader Bhanu has abandoned his position on the western half of the Kilinochchi front. According to sources, Bhanu was in charge of the LTTE defence against the Task Force 1. The terrorist leader has repositioned himself in LTTE hiding areas south of Kilinochchi,” it said.

Meanwhile, helicopter gun-ships attacked ‘LTTE resistance points’ 1.5 km north of Akkarayankulam on Saturday.

Air Force spokesperson Janaka Nanayakkara said the missions were carried out to support the Army’s 57th Division, which is now in a commanding position north of Akkarayankulam Tank.

Source: Hindu

Ready to pay any price: Karunanidhi

“We are ready to pay any price to stop the annihilation of the Tamil race in Sri Lanka, whose future has become a question mark,” said Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi here on Saturday.

In a statement, the Chief Minister said he was disturbed over the sufferings of the Sri Lankan Tamils. But there was a silver lining as both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee had strongly backed the resolutions adopted at the all-party meet here on October 14.

The Prime Minister in an interview had categorically said India had been pressing for a negotiated settlement in Sri Lanka as there could not be a military solution to the ethnic issue.

The Prime Minister also expressed his concern over the harassment and killing of Tamil fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy. This showed the Prime Minister’s support to the Tamils.

Mr. Mukherjee in a statement on Thursday said the situation in the island was causing anxiety and innocent Tamils had become victims of circumstances for which they were not responsible. India wanted Sri Lanka to honour the rights of Tamils and no attempt should be made to prevent the movement of food and other essential commodities to them. He had reiterated that a political solution alone would satisfy the feelings of all people in Sri Lanka, Mr. Karunanidhi said.

These statements, the Chief Minister said, had given hope that the Central government would step in to save the suffering Tamils in the island.

Source: Hindu

Sri Lanka ‘mindful of Indian concerns,’ invites Pranab

Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapaksa told Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in a telephonic conversation on Saturday that security forces were engaged in an “operation to disarm the LTTE and restore democracy, peace and stability to the region.”

A statement by the Foreign Ministry here said Mr. Rajapaksa briefed Dr. Singh on the situation in the north of the island country and reiterated that the security forces were under “strict instructions to avoid causing any civilian casualties, during this operation.”

“He also informed Dr. Singh that Sri Lanka is mindful and appreciative of the concerns of India regarding the situation in the North, and aware of the context in which these matters have been raised.

“Consequent to this discussion, Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama has invited the Indian Minister of External Affairs Pranab Mukherjee to undertake a visit to Sri Lanka at an early date. Both leaders agreed to maintain a dialogue at a high political level, in keeping with the longstanding and excellent bilateral relations between India and Sri Lanka,” it said.

On Friday, High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Alok Prasad called on Mr. Bogollagama and conveyed the Indian concerns articulated in the October 6 demarche served on Sri Lanka’s Deputy High Commissioner by the National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan, remarks made by Dr. Singh on the current situation in the island and the statement issued by Mr. Mukherjee in New Delhi on Thursday.

Source: Hindu

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Protect rights of Tamils, Indian PM tells SL Prez Rajapaksa

Amid mounting pressure from ally DMK and other Tamil Nadu parties, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday asked Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa to ensure that Tamils do not get ‘enmeshed’ in the conflict with LTTE and that their rights and safety are upheld.

During a telephonic conversation initiated by Rajapaksa, Singh said there could be no military solution to the conflict in the island country and asked the President to start a political process for a peacefully negotiated settlement within the framework of a united Sri Lanka, the Prime Minister's Office said.

The Prime Minister also asked Rajapaksa to instruct the Sri Lankan Navy to desist from firing on Indian fishermen, saying their killing is ‘unacceptable’, the PMO said in a statement.

Rajapaksa assured Singh that ‘all necessary measures’ are being taken to ensure safety and well-being of the Tamil community in Sri Lanka, it said.

"During the telephonic conversation, the Prime Minister expressed his deep concern on the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the north of Sri Lanka, especially on the plight of civilians caught in the hostilities," the statement said.

Singh emphasised that the ‘safety and the security of these civilians must be safeguarded at all costs.

Source: expressindia

Sri Lanka is fully conscious of India’s concerns, says its Foreign Minister

Sri Lanka’’s Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama said that the country is fully conscious of the concerns being expressed in India over the developments in the island nation.

Bogollagama, during his talks with India’’s High Commissioner Alok Prasad in Colombo on Friday, said that his country intends to further discuss and address the issue in the spirit of the ‘existing excellent bilateral relations’.

Earlier, India asked Sri Lanka to address its concerns over the humanitarian situation in the island nation.

On October 17, Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon summoned the Sri Lankan High Commissioner C.R. Jayasinghe and conveyed India’’s concerns over the situation.

The hostilities between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the Sri Lanka Government forces continued to surge in the Wanni region inflicting ”heavy casualties” on the Tamil outfit.

Three trench-lines of the Tamil outfit were captured in Mullaithivu as the army and Tamil Tigers locked horns at Andankulam.

Meanwhile, the Dravida Munnettra Kazhagam (DMK) MPs from Tamil Nadu, both in the Lok Sabha and the Rajaya Sabha barring Dayanidhi Maran have submitted their resigantions to the party President and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karuanaidhi.

In a statement in Chennai on Saturday, Karunanidhi said the DMK is prepared to pay any price to stop the attacks on Tamils in Sri Lanka, and added, the future of Tamils in the island nation has become a question mark and there is need to protect them.

Karunanidhi also said he hoped that the Centre would carefully consider the resolution adopted at the State government convened all party meeting and act suitably.

While refuting allegations that the DMK had done nothing for the Tamils in Sri Lanka, Karunanidhi pointed out that the DMK Government in Tamil Nadu had been dismissed twice in 1976 and 1991 mainly for supporting the cause of the Lankan Tamils.

On October 14, at an all-party meeting in Tamil Nadu, convened by Karunanidhi, the Centre was served an ultimatum on the Sri Lankan Tamil problem and warned that all MPs from the state would resign en masse, if the government failed to halt the war in the island nation within two weeks.

Source: newspostonline

Russia pledges fullest support for Sri Lanka's struggle against terror

Russian government has endorsed the measures taken by Sri Lankan government against terrorism and pledged its fullest support to the endeavor. This was revealed when Secretary to the Ministry of Defence, Sri Lanka, Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa met with the Russian government officials during an official visit to Russia recently.

On a special invitation made by Russian Minister of Defence Anatoliy Serdyukov, the Sri Lankan Defence Secretary embarked on this visit with a high-powered delegation. The Sri Lankan delegation was welcomed with special honors at the Red Square and Kremlin and had the opportunity to hold dissuasions with Russian Defence Ministry officials and officials of few other establishments.

During the visit, Defence Secretary Rajapaksa met Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov and had bilateral discussions. During the discussions, the Russian government viewed Sri Lanka's struggle against terrorism similar to the measures taken in the past by Russia to defeat Chechnya terrorists. Also, Russian government pledged all measures will be taken to provide military technology and expertise to Sri Lanka in its endeavor.

Sri Lankan ambassador to Russia, Udayanga Weeratunge accompanied the Defence Secretary during this visit.


All DMK ministers resign over Sri Lanka Tamil row

All DMK ministers in the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre have submitted their resignation letters to party supremo and chief minister M Karunanidhi for the sake of Sri Lankan Tamils. They would, however attend Parliament till October 28.

RESENTMENT PREVAILS in Tamil Nadu’s political circles over the Sri Lanka issue and all Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) ministers in the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at the Centre have submitted their resignation letters to party supremo and chief minister M Karunanidhi for the sake of Sri Lankan Tamils. They are threatening to resign en masse if the violence against innocent Tamils is not stopped in Sri Lanka,

The Union minister TR Baalu and A Raja, who came from Delhi after attending the opening day of Parliament, reportedly met Karunanidhi at party headquarters, Anna Arivalayam, and put in their papers.

Lok Sabha members of DMK also submitted their resignations, post-dated October 28, to Karunanidhi, following the resolution adopted at the all-party meeting. As per the decision, ministers and members of Parliament (MPs) of the party would, however, attend Parliament till October 28, the deadline served by the DMK and other parties to the Centre to ensure that the Sri Lanka government declare ceasefire and stop genocide against Tamils.

Meanwhile, Indian foreign secretary Shivshankar Menon summoned Sri Lankan high commissioner CR Jayasinghe to register India’s unhappiness with the situation in Sri Lanka and asked Colombo to ’take steps’ to stop the violence that has severely affected Tamil civilians in the island nation.

According to the official sources, India expressed grave concern over the ongoing violence in Sri Lanka.

He asked Colombo to take concrete steps to stop the military offensive in Sri Lanka

This is the 3rd message from New Delhi to Colombo in the last three days. Menon again impressed upon Colombo to pursue a negotiated political solution, rather than continue with military means to settle the decades-old ethnic feud.

He also asked Colombo to ensure that the harassment and killing of Indian fishermen in neighbouring areas is stopped forthwith. Menon’s decision to summon the Sri Lankan envoy comes a day after president Mahinda Rajapaksa told a newspaper that his government was committed to finding “a just and enduring political solution” and there were “no military solutions to political questions”.

This shows New Delhi’s growing impatience with Colombo over the way the Sri Lankan government has launched its biggest ever offensive against the Tamil Tigers, leading to much hardship and suffering for civilians caught in the crossfire.

Source: merinews

Govt working to end Lankan conflict, says Pallam Raju(Minister of State for Defence-India)

With political parties in Tamil Nadu mounting pressure on the Sri Lankan Tamils issue, the government today said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was making "best efforts" to ensure an end to the crisis and for a proper settlement of the ethnic problem.
"We are conscious that we as a nation have to try and reduce the conflict and negotiate a proper settlement for Tamils living in Sri Lanka. Towards this end, the government and the Prime Minister are making their best efforts," Minister of State for Defence M M Pallam Raju told reporters here.

"The government and the country are very clear about the manner in which we should be involved in Sri Lanka," he said when asked about the issue on the sidelines of a seminar organised by Indian Institution of Bridge Engineers.

To a question on India's supply of defence equipment to Sri Lanka, Raju said it was purely for "self defence" of that country.

Raju said the government was concentrating its efforts on safeguarding human rights of Tamils in that country.

"The entire effort of the government has been to minimise the conflict and to safeguard human rights of Tamils living there and we are working towards that end," Raju said.

In an apparent reference to fears of Pakistan and China gaining influence in Sri Lanka, Raju said the government was taking every step to guard its interests in the Indian Ocean Region.

"We are clear that we should be the only nation who should be present in this region and we are guarding our interests in the Indian Ocean Region, " Raju said.

Source: PTI

Tamil film industry rift over championing Sri Lankan Tamils

Most Tamil film actors have promised to turn up for the Nov 1 day-long token fast organised by actor-turned-politician Sarath Kumar here to protest the suffering of Sri Lankan Tamils, and politely excused themselves from Sunday's rally in Rameshwaram organised by ace director Bharati Raja.

The Tamil film industry is keen on highlighting the suffering of Sri Lankan Tamils, from whom the industry nets a huge sum of money through overseas rights of their films.

Bharati Raja Friday launched a campaign against virtually all the matinee idols of the South Indian Actors' Association (SIAA) led by Sarath Kumar for staying away from the demonstration and public meeting in Rameshwaram. He alleged the actor was attempting to use the state's unhappiness over the suffering of Sri Lankan Tamils to further his political career.

"Can't they be present at Rameshwaram to show solidarity with Sri Lanka Tamils? It is their hard earned money that is bringing in a lot of profit through the overseas rights of Tamil movies," Raja said.

Many actors have excused themselves from the Rameshwaram protest citing preoccupation.

While Raja is considered to be close to the ruling DMK, Kumar is in the opposition camp and heads the All India Samathuva Makkal Katchi (AISMK).

Kumar's supporters feel Raja was talking out of turn.

"Raja had failed to turn up during an emotional protest in April against Kannada chauvinists' destruction of Tamil movie properties in Bangalore," said a top functionary of Kumar-led AISMK.

Significantly, the Raja-led protest will be attended by several directors and technicians owing allegiance to the Film Employees' Federation of South India (FEFSI) - the apex body of the entire south's film industry, but will lack glamour as most of the actors and actresses are planning to stay away.

"The polemics in the film industry politics has taken a needless lead when the actual focus ought to be on the sufferings Tamils in Sri Lanka. The attention, however, will help the Tamils' cause in the longer run," said P. Shankar, a scriptwriter and production designer.

Kumar had said Wednesday, "A large number of actors will not be able to take part in the demonstration in Rameshwaram and hence we are organising a fast on Nov 1 in the SIAA premises."

Source: Hindu

Karunanidhi welcomes PM's remarks on Lanka issue

Welcoming Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's statements favouring a negotiated settlement to end the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi has said the remarks raised hopes of the Centre taking steps to halt Lankan troops' offensive against Tamils in LTTE-held areas.

The DMK chief, while writing in party organ "Murasoli", said he found solace in the remarks of the PM and hoped the Centre would consider the demands of an all-party meeting in Chennai on October 14.

Singh had said there could not be any military solution to the Sri Lankan issue and India had been pressing for a negotiated settlement to meet the aspirations of minority Tamils in that country, he said.

External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee had also spoken on the similar line, he said, adding these remarks had strengthened his hopes that the centre would act, taking into consideration, the resolution passed at the meeting, which said all MPs from the state would resign if the Centre did not take action within a fortnight.

In line with the resolution, 13 Lok Sabha members of the DMK and four Rajya Sabha members have already submitted their post-dated resignation letters to Karunanidhi.

Expressing anguish over the plight of Sri Lankan Tamils, he said: "The future of Tamil race has become a question mark. I am unable to sleep, whenever I think of it. Let us save the Tamil race and its honour. Let us avoid the racial genocide in Sri Lanka at whatever price."

Source: hindustantimes

India must intervene, says Lanka Tamil MP

The Indian Government should intervene in the ethnic strife in Sri Lanka, said Tamil MP N K Sivadhilingam here on Friday.

Tamils, Muslims, French and Sinhalese were living in Sri Lanka. But the government wanted non-Sinhalese out of the country. So, they were killing Tamils under the cover of the war between the Sri Lankan troops and the LTTE, he told reporters here.

Earlier, he attended a meeting organised by the Pattali Makkal Katchi and the Viduthalai Chiruthaikal Katchi here.The Tamil National Alliance Party leader said the Lankan Army had started air attacks on the Tamils due to the recent support from Pakistan and China.

The Chinese Government had supplied a three-dimensional radar to the Lankan troops. He criticised Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa for not heeding India’s advice and continuing with the attacks on Tamils.

Source: expressbuzz

India can intervene in Sri Lanka: Karunanidhi

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi said Friday night that India could certainly intervene in Sri Lanka to alleviate the sufferings of Tamil minorities there, in the same way it did in then East Pakistan in 1971.”Did India not intervene in Bangladesh when needed?”, the DMK chief told reporters when asked how India could intervene in the affairs of a foreign nation. He was referring to the 1971 India-Pakistan war that led to the creation of a separate nation of Bangladesh.

Karunanidhi was speaking to media persons after 14 party Lok Sabha MPs, including central ministers T.R. Baalu and A. Raja, handed over post-dated resignation letters to him demanding an end to the violence in Sri Lanka.

“The decision about the resignations will be taken finally on oct 28, if the situation does not improve,” the veteran leader said.

The resignations came even as the central government asked Sri Lanka to halt its military offensive against the Tamil Tigers in the island nation.

Earlier in the evening, the ruling DMK had announced that four of its Rajya Sabha MPs had submitted post-dated resignation letters to Karunanidhi on the issue.

A party spokesperson said: “We have great faith in the United Progressive Alliance leadership at the centre and hope the suffering of our brethren in the island will end soon.”

Karunanidhi’s daughter and Rajya Sabha MP Kanimozhi had handed her resignation letter to her father Tuesday.

Tamil Nadu and the union territory of Puducherry together have 40 members in the Lok Sabha - all of who have offered to quit if the government fails to take action on the Sri Lankan issue.

Lawyers in Coimbatore burnt an effigy of Union Defence Minister A.K. Antony within the court premises earlier in the day, alleging a conspiracy by bureaucrats of Kerala origin to keep the Tamil minority in Sri Lanka on tenterhooks.

The protesting lawyers burnt copies of The Hindu newspaper, which carried an interview Friday by Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa saying that he was committed to a “just and enduring political solution” to the festering problem. The lawyers alleged that major newspapers in the country were ignoring the “just demands” of the minority Tamils in Sri Lanka.

Source: thaindian

Friday, 17 October 2008

Breakaway rebel groups clash in Eastern Sri Lanka

Two factions of the breakaway rebel party in Eastern Sri Lanka clashed over the party's printing press today as the party leader, Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan alias Karuna resumed the duties as a Parliament member.

According to the police, Karuna faction of the breakaway rebels raided the printing office run by the Pillayan faction in Batticaloa town this afternoon.

Police confirmed that the cadres of the Karuna group had taken the control of the office called "Thenagama" and detained 13 members of the Pillayan group. No one was injured in the scuffle.

The police said they are on alert over the developing situation.

Source: CP

14 DMK MPs hand in resignation letters over Sri Lanka issue

Fourteen DMK Lok Sabha MPs, including central ministers T.R. Baalu and A. Raja, handed over post-dated resignation letters to party head and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi Friday evening demanding an end to the violence in Sri Lanka.The move came even as the central government asked Sri Lanka to halt its military offensive against the Tamil Tigers in the island nation.

Earlier in the evening, the ruling DMK had announced that four of its Rajya Sabha MPs had submitted post-dated resignation letters to Karunanidhi on the issue.

The resignation letters will come into effect only if the killings do not end by Oct 29, said a party spokesperson.

“We have great faith in the United Progressive Alliance leadership at the centre and hope the suffering of our brethren in the island will end soon,” the spokesman said.

Karunanidhi’s daughter and Rajya Sabha MP Kanimozhi had handed her resignation letter to her father Tuesday.

Tamil Nadu and the union territory of Puducherry together have 40 members in the Lok Sabha - all of who have offered to quit if the government fails to take action on the Sri Lankan issue.

Lawyers in Coimbatore burnt an effigy of Union Defence Minister A.K. Antony within the court premises earlier in the day, alleging a conspiracy by bureaucrats of Kerala origin to keep the Tamil minority in Sri Lanka on tenterhooks.

The protesting lawyers burnt copies of The Hindu newspaper, which carried an interview Friday by Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa saying that he was committed to a “just and enduring political solution” to the festering problem. The lawyers alleged that major newspapers in the country were ignoring the “just demands” of the minority Tamils in Sri Lanka.

Source: thaindian

West urged not to ignore Sri Lanka

A senior western diplomat has warned that living conditions are deteriorating for tens of thousands of civilians displaced inside Tamil Tiger rebel-held areas in northern Sri Lanka. It is a humanitarian disaster waiting to happen, he says.

"We have one of the biggest humanitarian problems emerging in the north at the moment. Unfortunately it's not attracting enough international attention," the diplomat, who's familiar with the Sri Lankan situation, told the BBC.

Sri Lankan security forces are carrying out a multi-pronged offensive against Tamil Tiger rebels in the north and some army units are reported to be very close to the town of Kilinochchi, where the Tamil Tigers have their administrative headquarters.

The United Nations says more than 200,000 people have been displaced in the latest round of fighting and they have been moving from place to place inside Tamil Tiger-controlled areas.

With the army capturing more and more territory from the rebels, the civilians have now been confined to a smaller region. Sooner or later hostilities are expected to break out in areas not very far from them. Some fear that they might get caught in the crossfire.

The diplomat, who didn't want to be identified, said Western governments had lost interest in Sri Lanka because "they think that there is little value of going back to the peace process because they are not sure whether the rebels will negotiate in good faith".

Political threat

With the international community showing little interest in the Sri Lankan conflict, the Tamil Tigers now appear to have turned towards their supporters and political parties in neighbouring India to bring about a ceasefire in the island nation.

Pro-rebel political parties and some fringe groups in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu have been holding protest rallies against the Sri Lankan army offensive claiming many Tamil civilians are being killed in the conflict.

Sri Lankan officials deny the charges, saying they are only targeting the rebel fighters.

Tamil Nadu is home to more than 60 million Tamils, who share close linguistic and cultural ties with the Tamils in Sri Lanka.

Most of the major political parties from Tamil Nadu have warned that their lawmakers will quit the Indian parliament if Delhi fails to broker a ceasefire in Sri Lanka. If the threats were carried out they could trigger a political crisis in Delhi.

But these protests are viewed by some as an attempt by the pro-rebel groups to try to protect the Tamil Tigers, who appear to have been cornered by the Sri Lankan security forces in recent months.

India has been pursuing a hands-off policy in Sri Lanka since the assassination of the former Indian prime minister, Rajiv Gandhi, allegedly by a female Tamil rebel suicide bomber in 1991. However, it actively backed the Norwegian-led peace process, which was officially called off early this year.

Officially, India wants a negotiated settlement within a united Sri Lanka, knowing that any fragmentation of Sri Lanka could have serious ramifications for its own security. If Delhi attempts to exert any pressure on Colombo it is bound to trigger an angry reaction from hard line political parties in Sri Lanka.

So the protests in Tamil Nadu may not result in a major shift in India's Sri Lanka policy as Delhi's options appear to be limited.

"The rebels seemed to have made a miscalculation on when and how India will intervene. I don't see any chance of the conflict ending in the next few weeks," the western diplomat said.

'Better strategy'

The Sri Lankan military would also stoutly oppose any move to stop the offensive which seems to be going in their favour.

Analysts say the military's numerical superiority, stronger firepower and better military strategy have helped them to push rapidly deep inside rebel-held territory in recent months. But their progress has been slow in recent weeks due to stiff resistance from the Tigers.

Many military observers agree that if the present trend continues then the army will capture Kilinochchi sooner or later.

The fall of Kilinochchi would deal a significant blow to the Tamil Tigers. Militarily, Kilinochchi will also open the gates to strategically important areas like Paranthan and Elephant Pass, the strategic land bridge leading to the Jaffna Peninsula.

If the army achieves its objectives, then the rebels would be confined mostly to the Mullaitivu region.

Now the fear among the Tamils is if the rebels are weakened then the government may not show interest in devolving powers to Tamil areas.

"There is a danger that there will be little pressure on the Sri Lankan government to devolve powers to Tamil regions if the rebels lose the war," says Sri Lankan analyst DBS Jeyaraj.

However, he argues that the fall of Kilinochchi may not be the end of the rebels as most of their weapons and cadres are still intact and they may be gearing up for a long, drawn-out guerrilla war.

Source: BBC

Four DMK MPs send resignation letters over Sri Lanka issue

Even as the central government asked Sri Lanka to halt its military offensive against the Tamil Tigers, Tamil Nadu’s ruling DMK announced Friday that four of its Rajya Sabha MPs had submitted post-dated resignation letters to Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi to demand an end to the violence in the island nation.This was stated in a statement faxed to newspaper offices in the evening.

A party spokesman told IANS late Friday that more MPs were likely to hand in their post-dated resignation letters.

“Most MPs are still in Tamil Nadu while a few are returning from New Delhi. The party has not worked out a programme for an en masse resignation as the central government is seriously acting upon the resolution passed at the all-party meeting (held Monday),” he said.

Asked about Karunanidhi’s daughter and Rajya Sabha MP Kanimozhi handing her resignation letter to her father Tuesday, the spokesman said the gesture was of “a symbolic nature since she felt that the upper house members did not come within the purview of the resolution”.

“The resignation offer from all MPs of Tamil Nadu comes with a rider. It will take effect only if the killings do not end within a fortnight, which expires Oct 29. We have great faith in the United Progressive Alliance leadership at the centre and hope the suffering of our brethren in the island will end soon,” the spokesman added.

Tamil Nadu and the union territory of Puducherry together have 40 members in the Lok Sabha - all of who have offered to quit if the government fails to take action on the Sri Lankan issue.

Lawyers in Coimbatore burnt an effigy of Union Defence Minister A.K. Antony within the court premises earlier in the day, alleging a conspiracy by bureaucrats of Kerala origin to keep the Tamil minority in Sri Lanka on tenterhooks.

The protesting lawyers burnt copies of The Hindu neewspaper, which carried an interview Friday by Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa saying that he was committed to a “just and enduring political solution” to the festering problem. The lawyers alleged that major newspapers in the country were ignoring the “just demands” of the minority Tamils in Sri Lanka.

Source: thaindian

Food aid reaches Sri Lanka north

A UN food convoy has reached rebel-held northern Sri Lanka where some 200,000 people have been displaced by fighting.

The World Food Programme said aid was handed to local government officials.

The 50-truck convoy carrying 750 tonnes of food was due to reach the Wanni region on Thursday but had to turn back after coming under artillery fire.

The UN tried again after receiving safety assurances from Sri Lankan forces and Tamil Tiger rebels who have fought fierce clashes in recent weeks.

A member of the World Food Programme, Mads Vejlstrup, said Friday's journey had been without major incident.

"Today we had no problems except rain," he told the BBC Tamil service.

"We are now off loading in Pudukudiyiruppu. My colleague has gone with another group of lorries to Kilinochchi district and so far offloaded 80 tonnes of food. We are planning to come back tomorrow morning."


On Thursday shells exploded "uncomfortably" close to the convoy inside the Wanni region, a UN spokesman said. It is not clear who was behind the firing.

The first UN convoy of food aid was sent into rebel-controlled northern Sri Lanka a fortnight ago after the UN and other agencies were ordered out in mid-September.

The UN says the latest convoy was carrying enough food to feed the population in the Wanni for about a week.

Troops and rebels have fought fierce battles in recent weeks as the army advances towards the key rebel town of Kilinochchi.

Sri Lanka's military is continuing an offensive aimed at capturing territory controlled by the Tigers and ending their fight for a separate state for the ethnic Tamil minority.

According to the military, soldiers are now only 1.5km (one mile) from the outskirts of Kilinochchi.

But with journalists barred from the area, the claims cannot be independently verified.

Many civilians have fled Kilinochchi to escape the fighting in recent weeks.

Source: BBC

Vaiko demands withdrawal of information exchange accord

Saying the Indian government's approach to the Sri lankan issue indirectly helped the Sri Lankan government and not the Tamils, MDMK leader Vaiko on Friday demanded withdrawal of the information exchange agreement between the navies of the two countries.

Adressing the members of the Tamilnadu Advocates' Association and Madurai Bar association who observed a fast in front of the Madras High Court Bench here, he said the government should also withdraw the radars given to the Sri lankan government as the Sri Lankan President has "refused" to stop the war and vowed to destroy the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam(LTTE).

The central government and the international community were duty-bound to stop the massacre of innoncent Tamil people, he said.

Though no military accord had been signed, India was extending all military help to Sri lanka.

He rejcted the contention of the government that if India did not help Sri Lanka, Pakisthan and China would help them and India's security would be affected. He said Tamils would be better "security fort" than Sinhalese in the southern tip.

Source: Hindu

Sri Lanka seeks to avoid spat with India over military drive

Sri Lanka said Friday it will send a delegation to India to defuse mounting tensions over the escalating conflict with Tamil Tiger rebels.

Sri Lanka's minority Tamils share close cultural and religious links with the 55 million Tamils in the nearby south Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

Colombo's all-out assault on the northern stronghold of the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has prompted New Delhi to voice "grave concern" over the conflict.

"We are hoping to send a team of MPs to India to educate them on the latest situation," Media Minister Yapa Abeywardena said in a statement over national radio, signalling that Sri Lanka was attempting to defuse pressure from India.

He insisted the government was trying to avoid civilian casualties.

"We know the difference between the Tamil civilians and the Tiger terrorists," he said, rejecting complaints from Tamil Nadu politicians that Tamil civilians were being targeted.

A group of MPs from the state have threatened to resign -- a move that could destabilise the federal government -- unless New Delhi puts pressure on Colombo.

The Sri Lankan government, which pulled out of a Norwegian-backed truce with the rebels in January, is trying to capture the rebel political headquarters of Kilinochchi, 330 kilometres (205 miles) north of Colombo.

Sri Lanka's ethnic Sinhalese-dominated government is engaged in one of its biggest offensives against the Tamil Tigers, who control part of the north of the island and want to carve out a separate state.

India, meanwhile, kept up the pressure on Sri Lanka, asking the government to "ensure the rights of its civilians are respected and they are protected from attacks".

Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon conveyed India's concerns to Sri Lankan ambassador to India, C. R. Jayasinghe after the top diplomat was summoned to the foreign ministry in New Delhi.

The foreign secretary told Jayasinghe India was "gravely worried" over the escalating conflict, an Indian government official said.

"Menon also told the Sri Lankan envoy that Colombo should find a negotiated political solution to the ethnic problem rather than look for a military victory," the Press Trust of India quoted the unnamed official as saying.

An estimated 230,000 Sri Lankan Tamil civilians have been displaced by the latest fighting.

Late on Thursday, Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee echoed the foreign secretary's concerns, urging Colombo to find "a peacefully negotiated political settlement... within the framework of a united Sri Lanka".

New Delhi would "do all in its power to achieve this goal, to ameliorate the humanitarian conditions", he said, repeating the Indian view that the long-running dispute cannot be resolved by yet more fighting.

Sri Lanka's government, however, says peace will only come once the Tigers have been defeated.

Tens of thousands of people have died on both sides since the LTTE launched its campaign for an independent state in 1972.

Source: AFP

Tamil Nadu stand on Lanka could endanger India unity: Newspaper

Terming the recent expression of concern by Tamil Nadu parties over the ongoing violence in northern Sri Lanka as a contradiction of India's own policy on terrorism, a leading newspaper here has called it "latent separatist tendencies" in the Southern state.

In a front page editorial titled "India's moment of Shame", the Island Newspaper warned that the pressure from some Tamil Nadu politicians could endanger the unity of India.

"Interestingly, India has spelt out this strategy to deal with terrorism while it is coming under increasing pressure from backers in Tamil Nadu to intervene and put obstruction's on Sri Lanka's 'robust fight' against terrorism.

"The pro-LTTE sections are all out to make India undertake something fraught with the danger of leading to its own disintegration one day, given the latent separatist tendencies in Tamil Nadu," the editorial said.

The newspaper also said the LTTE, has managed to hold India to "ransom through its terror partners in Tamil Nadu" in spite of its proscription.

"What (LTTE Supremo Velupillai) Prabhakaran has achieved -remote-controlling the Central Government of India representing one billion people -- is something that not even countries hostile to India can ever dream of," it said.

Recalling that Prabhakaran was a convicted criminal in Sri Lanka and wanted in India for the assassination of a former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, the editorial said "he has made a mockery of Indian law and sovereignty".

Source: Hindu

India asks Sri Lanka to stop military offensive against Tamils

With the political temperature rising in Tamil Nadu over the situation in Sri Lanka, Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon Friday summoned Sri Lankan High Commissioner C.R. Jayasinghe and asked Colombo to “take steps” to stop the violence that has severely affected Tamil civilians in the island nation. “India expressed grave concerns over the ongoing violence in Sri Lanka. He asked Colombo to take concrete steps to stop the military offensive in Sri Lanka,” an official source said after Menon summoned Jayasinghe to South Block, the seat of the external affairs ministry, to register India’s unhappiness with the situation in Sri Lanka.

This is the third message from New Delhi to Colombo in the last three days.

With Tamil Nadu MPs threatening to resign en masse if the violence against innocent Tamils is not stopped in Sri Lanka, Menon again impressed upon Colombo to pursue a negotiated political solution, rather than continue with military means to settle the decades-old ethnic feud.

Menon also asked Colombo to ensure that the harassment and killing of Indian fishermen in neighbouring areas are stopped forthwith.

Menon’s decision to summon the Sri Lankan envoy comes a day after President Mahinda Rajapaksa told The Hindu newspaper that his government was committed to finding “a just and enduring political solution” and there were “no military solutions to political questions”.

This shows New Delhi’s growing impatience with Colombo over the way the Sri Lankan government has launched its biggest ever offensive against the Tamil Tigers, leading to much hardship and suffering for civilians caught in the crossfire, the source said.

External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee had sent a stern message to Colombo Thursday asking it to shun “military means” and pursue a political settlement that respects the human rights of minorities in the island nation.

“It is essential that their rights be respected, that they be immune from attacks, and that food and other essential supplies be allowed to reach them,” Mukherjee said.

In a clear warning to Colombo, Mukherjee said the Indian government would “do all in its power to achieve this goal and to ameliorate the humanitarian conditions in Sri Lanka”.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Wednesday had asked Sri Lanka to de-escalate hostilities and pursue a negotiated political settlement.

In Colombo, India’s High Commissioner Alok Prasad met Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama and conveyed New Delhi’s “concerns” over the situation in the north and east.

“The discussion centred on current issues pertaining to Indo-Sri Lanka bilateral relations in the context of developments in the North and the East of Sri Lanka. Concerns being expressed in this regard in India were conveyed to Minister Bogollagama by the High Commissioner,” the foreign ministry here said in a statement.

Bogollagama responded that Sri Lanka was “fully conscious of the concerns being expressed and understand the context in which these matters are being raised”.

“The minister assured that in the spirit of existing excellent bilateral relations, Sri Lanka intends to further discuss these issues bilaterally to address those concerns. It was indicated that bilateral consultation process in this regard could continue at appropriate levels,” the ministry statement said.

Source: thaindian