Sri Lanka assures India about Tamils’ safety, ready for Indian relief (Lead)

November 13th, 2008 - 10:20 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan SinghNew Delhi, Nov 13 (IANS) Sri Lanka Thursday said it was ready to receive a consignment of relief material from India to help civilians caught in the military conflict in the island nation, but underlined that there will be no let-up in military offensive against the Tamil Tigers. Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa told Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here Thursday that his government was committed to ensure the safety and well-being of Tamil civilians caught in the crossfire between Lankan forces and the LTTE in the northeast areas.

Under pressure from the UPA’s allies in Tamil Nadu over the situation in Sri Lanka, Manmohan Singh asked Rajapaksa to ensure that the interests and safety of innocent Tamil civilians should be protected at all costs.

The president told the Indian prime minister that various arrangements for providing relief material to civilians have been put in place, Sri Lanka’s envoy to India C.R. Jayasinghe told IANS.

India is planning to send around 80,000 packets of food and relief material for Tamil civilians caught in the standoff between Sri Lanka forces and the LTTE. “All clearances have been given from our side. The consignment is expected to reach this week,” the Lankan envoy said.

The humanitarian assistance would be the first of its kind to the conflict-hit northeast areas of Sri Lanka in nearly two decades. Around 200,000 Tamil civilians are reported to be displaced due to the offensive against LTTE by the Lankan Army.

New Delhi had provided medical and other assistance to Sri Lanka after the 2004 devastating tsunami that damaged the island nation’s economy and killed thousands.

Rajapaksa also expressed his concerns over the abuse of the Indian fishermen by the LTTE who he said were manipulated to carry arms and ammunition for the Tamil Tigers, but underlined that the Sri Lankan forces will exercise restraint in dealing with Indian fishermen.

The Lankan president assured Manmohan Singh that his government was promoting democratization and devolution of powers to the northeast area of the island nation.

Batting for continuing military action against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, Rajapaksa blamed the LTTE for violating the ceasefire and said that his government was ready to engage in talks with the LTTE only if they lay down arms.

Rajapaksa also made it clear that the military offensive against the LTTE will not stop as his government was determined to eliminate terrorism before pushing forward the political process in the country.

Earlier in the day, Rajapaksa stressed that terrorist activities of the LTTE have to be dealt with “militarily” and any underlying causes, exploited by such outfits, should be addressed politically.

“For over two decades, Sri Lanka has been facing a tremendous challenge to our democratic way of life through barbaric actions of a terrorist group, the LTTE.

“There is no doubt that such groups have to be dealt with militarily,” Rajapaksa said in his address at the second summit of Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC).

“We discussed it (at the meeting). All countries and societies of the region are affected by terrorism,” Rajapaksa said while advocating a mechanism to effectively police the seas of the Bay of Bengal.

Terror groups are able to sustain themselves by illegal fundraising, narcotics and people trafficking, money laundering, and arms and ammunition smuggling, including through the sea routes in the Bay of Bengal, he said.

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