Karunanidhi ends fast as Sri Lanka ends ‘combat operations’ (Third Lead)

April 27th, 2009 - 3:02 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh Chennai/Colombo, April 27 (IANS) Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi ended Monday a hunger strike in support of a ceasefire in Sri Lanka after Colombo said it was ending “combat operations” against the Tamil Tigers.
The 85-year-old DMK patriarch accepted a soft drink from his wife to signify the end of his protest, hours after he dramatically went on a fast at the memorial of party founder C.N. Annadurai at Chennai’s Marina beach.

One of India’s most experienced politicians, Karunanidhi told reporters in the morning that Sri Lanka was indulging in “cruel acts” against the Tamils and sought an end to the military offensive against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

“I have decided to add my life to the increasing numbers of lives lost due to the Sinhalese regime’s continuing cruel acts against the Tamil minority in Sri Lanka,” Karunanidhi said.

Karunanidhi was joined in the protest by his wives Dayalu and Rajathi Ammal, son and Local Administration Minister M.K. Stalin, daughter and Rajya Sabha MP Kanimozhi, grand nephew Dayanidhi Maran and Electricity Minister Arcot N. Veerasamy.

As thousands gathered in support and sporadic violence erupted in parts of Tamil Nadu, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi frantically telephoned the DMK chief and assued him that New Delhi was doing its best to persuade Colombo to halt its military offensive that has claimed the lives of hundreds of civilians besides combatants.

Soon after, Sri Lanka’s National Security Council met in Colombo and announced it was ending all “combat operations” and that soldiers would in future only be engaged in rescuing civilians trapped in the small area still with the LTTE in the coastal belt of Mullaitivu district.

Karunanidhi broke his fast after Home Minister P. Chidambaram telephoned him to convey the Sri Lankan decision.

“Sri Lanka has ordered a ceasefire. So I am breaking my fast,” the chief minister told reporters from a bed that had been placed for him at the protest site where doctors kept a close watch on his health.

In Colombo, the government said that its combat operations against the LTTE had reached their conclusion and security forces would end the use of high calibre guns, combat aircraft and aerial weapons “which could cause civilian casualties”.

Chidamabaram said later that Indian leaders had been in touch with Sri Lankan authorities “very closely over the last 72 hours”.

He said Colombo had decided that their combat operations had reached their conclusion, that security forces had been instructed to stop using high calibre weapons and that the military “will confine itself now to rescuing civilians who are held in hostage” by the LTTE.

“It is our understanding that this amounts to a cessation of hostlities. We have been demanding a cessation of hostilities. We should all be relieved that hostilities have come to an end.

“For the present, the whole country must feel relieved that hositilites have come to an end.”

Congress general secretary M. Veerappa Moily said in New Delhi earlier that the prime minister was concerned about Karunanidhi’s health.

An emotive issue in Tamil Nadu, the Sri Lankan issue took a political turn after AIADMK general secretary J. Jayalalitha said Saturday that the establishment of a separate Tamil state was the only way to end the Sri Lankan crisis.

The ferment in Tamil Nadu comes amid Colombo’s determination to crush the LTTE, now confined to less than 10 sq km land area.

The widespread civilian suffering caused by the war has raised international concern. On Sunday, Colombo rejected the LTTE’S ceasefire offer, calling it a “joke”.

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