World community should be realistic
What is now unfolding before our very eyes is by far, the largest
hostage rescue operation that has been undertaken by any military in the
These people have clearly demonstrated their total rejection of the
LTTE and are living proof of the endorsement of the underlying
humanitarian objective of the mission of our armed forces, namely to
rescue them to safety.
This massive movement of human beings of epic proportions, is a
fitting reply to certain sceptical members of the international
community who, obviously misguided by Tiger propaganda, have been making
persistent predictions of massive civilian casualties, in the event our
Security Forces embarked on the rescue mission.
The Government of Sri Lanka shares the concern of the international
community over the plight of the civilians who are being held captive by
the LTTE in the NFZ. No one has more concern than the Government about
the safety of the country’s civilians.
In fact, it was with this objective that President Mahinda Rajapaksa
issued a directive to the Armed Forces to restrict their operations to a
defensive mode during the Sinhala and Tamil New Year period. Everybody
is aware that the recent pause in military action did not result in any
significant movement of civilians from the NFZ.
Indeed, what actually transpired was that the LTTE used the period of
our unilateral humanitarian pause to compel civilians to fortify the
earth bunds and trenches, actively prevented people to move out of the
No Fire Zone, negating the very purpose for which the Government had
declared the pause. Notwithstanding the repeated calls by several
countries and the UN to the LTTE, to permit the civilians, freedom of
movement, the LTTE callously ignored them and went about strengthening
its military positions and firing at our Security Forces from the NFZ.
Thus, it has become patently clear that the LTTE had cynically exploited
the humanitarian pause. Hence, it is quite ironical that these very same
countries and institutions are still calling on the Government to extend
the humanitarian pause.
Our Armed Forces have done Sri Lanka proud and shown themselves as an
exemplary and highly disciplined military in undertaking this hostage
rescue operation, with the only civilian casualties having been caused
by LTTE cadres deliberately shooting and killing civilians in a bid to
prevent them from fleeing, as well as the those who perished when three
suicide bombers exploded themselves among the people, who had dared to
defy LTTE orders and come over to the cleared areas.
Of course, there is no denial that the LTTE itself has suffered
massive casualties when the military engaged them in operations.
However, to suggest that these casualties are civilians is preposterous.
The lingering chorus of allegations being made by certain quarters,
including the various fronts of the LTTE that the Government Forces are
shelling the NFZ is quite simply incongruous, especially when such
claims are juxtaposed with the reality of thousands of civilians fleeing
across LTTE lines into the cleared areas. Such a scenario would be quite
inconceivable if the Security Forces were in fact firing at them.
As military operations go, these can take various forms. The military
rescue operation that was mounted by the Sri Lanka Army was not an
assault type on fortified positions of the enemy, but a highly
professional rescue mission, for which our soldiers had been especially
trained. Thus, the dire warnings by some of our friends in the
international community of a blood bath, if the Army entered the NFZ,
did not come to pass. In fact, now the Army has entered the NFZ at
Pudumattalam and effectively bisected it, confining the LTTE to the
southern part. The LTTE is still holding 15, 000 to 20,000 civilians,
hostage, as human shields, squeezed into an area less than 5 square
miles in extent.
The Government has put in place, facilities to receive around 120,000
The real need of the hour now is for the international community to
rally round the Government and tangibly come to the assistance of the
thousands of civilians who have fled the brutal control of LTTE and
sought sanctuary with the Armed Forces. With the unprecedented influx of
large numbers of people in such a short period of time, obviously we do
face an emergency humanitarian situation, and our friends in the
international community are most welcome to provide emergency relief
assistance, initially by way of semi-permanent shelter, water
purification plants, sanitation facilities and medical assistance.
The detailed list of requirements will be communicated to you in due
The core aim of the Government remains to re-settle all those who
have been displaced due to the conflict in their original places of
The Government’s sincere desire is to see through this process as
expeditiously as possible.
However, practical constraints remain. Vast areas previously
inhabited by these civilians have been heavily mined by the LTTE, before
they fled the assault of the Army.
Moreover, the LTTE also systematically destroyed the standing
buildings and infrastructure, before they were driven out of these areas
by the Army.
In order to expedite the resettlement program of the IDPs, we
urgently require assistance in mine clearance, as well as in the
rebuilding of the war shattered infrastructure in the areas of conflict
in the North.
The question of access whether it be for humanitarian aid agencies or
media keeps surfacing. INGOs are assisting the welfare villages and
access is dependent primarily on the security situation on the ground
and also the Government does not wish to encourage IDP tourism by
allowing unstructured visits to the welfare villages.
At present, 14 INGOs and UN Agencies are actively supporting the
efforts of the Government to provide the basic needs and essential
services for the IDPs accommodated at the IDP transit points and welfare
High ranking UN officials as well as diplomats based in Colombo who
have visited these facilities have expressed satisfaction and commended
the Government for its sincere commitment to provide the IDPs the best
possible services, under extremely difficult conditions.
There have been a number of visits for both the local and
international media to these facilities, which have been done in a
Civilians taken hostage by the LTTE
liberated by the Security Forces Pic: Thilak Perera
The Government is always receptive to constructive criticism and
insofar as conditions in the IDP camps are concerned, we are well aware
that the situation is far from ideal. However, the Government has
consciously worked towards addressing the shortcomings that have been
The issue of lack of communication with the inhabitants of the IDP
facilities has already been taken care of - telephone, telegram and
postal services are now operating in almost all the sites.
Also, around 1,800 IDPs with special needs, particularly the elderly,
have been released from these sites, and some 1,345 families have been
so far reunited.
Let me assure you, that the Government will continue to address all
issues confronting the IDPs in a humane manner and ensure that their
temporary stay in these facilities will be as comfortable as possible,
in the given situation.
The procedure that is followed in the reception of civilians coming
into the cleared areas, their registration and transfer to the IDP
transit points and welfare villages is given in the attached note (Annex
The Government welcomes the outcome of the informal briefing on Sri
Lanka which took place at the UN Security Council last night.
In particular, we appreciate the acknowledgement by this premier arm
of the UN System, with its overall responsibility for international
peace and security, for its forthright condemnation of the LTTE as a
terrorist organization and its use of civilians as human shields and not
allowing them to leave the area of conflict.
The Government notes with satisfaction that the Security Council
members have added their voice to demand the LTTE to lay down its arms
and renounce terrorism.
With regard to the call for international monitors and assistance for
evacuation of the civilians, the Sri Lankan Government is well engaged
with the UN and the ICRC on the humanitarian situation in the North and
related matters and therefore does not perceive the necessity for
separate roles for monitors.
In fact, the UN Secretary General has acknowledged that the UN has
been in discussion with the Government of Sri Lanka and other concerned
parties in recent months and weeks to explore ways in which the
suffering of the innocent people in the Vanni region can be brought to
an end or lessened.
The LTTE has through its sheer arrogance and intransigence,
dissipated its only realistic opportunity of a future role for itself in
the democratic polity of Sri Lanka, when it spurned His Excellency the
President’s ultimatum to lay down its arms and surrender, which expired
at noon on Tuesday, 21st April 2009.
As I stated at the outset, the death knell of the LTTE has been
sounded; it is simply a matter of time for the LTTE to be consigned into
its rightful place as the most ruthless terrorist organization that has
failed, in history. Future generations of Sri Lankan Tamils will look
back at the LTTE, as an organization ostensibly created for the
liberation of Tamils, becoming its worst plague, snuffing out the lives
of thousands of innocent people from all communities, Sinhalese, Tamils
and Muslims, as well as the cream of the Tamil polity and
It is time to look forward; the international community has a major
role to play in the post-conflict phase, in an environment devoid of the
violence and terrorism of the LTTE that has been the bane of our beloved
motherland in the last three decades.
The Government has in place, an elaborate and comprehensive program
for the rehabilitation of LTTE cadres who have surrendered, under the
Commissioner General of Rehabilitation.
With larger number of LTTE combatants giving themselves up to the
Security Forces, we also need international assistance to expand and
improve these facilities, in order to enable these ex-combatants to be
re-integrated with civil society, after a thorough one year residential
I conclude by calling on the international community to be realistic
in their expectations by being in tandem with the ground conditions and
not being swayed by erroneous propaganda, nor seek to solve their
domestic compulsions at the expense of the envisaged agenda of the Sri
The world at large must play a complementary role to that of our
Government, considering it is a war on terror which would provide the
environment conducive for a lasting political solution to be evolved.
Full text of Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama’s address to a
gathering of diplomatic corps in Colombo on April 23, 2009.