Sri Lankan president’s special emissary coming to India

April 22nd, 2009 - 5:04 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh By Manish Chand
New Delhi, April 22 (IANS) With the plight of Tamil civilians in Sri Lanka becoming an electoral issue in India and boatloads of fleeing refugees landing in Tamil Nadu, Colombo is planning to send President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s brother Basil as special envoy to assuage New Delhi’s concerns.

“There is a plan for him (Basil Rajapaksa) to come to India. But we do not have a specific date,” Sri Lanka’s ambassador to India C.R. Jayasinghe told IANS Wednesday.

Basil Rajapaksa, presidential adviser and parliamentarian, came to India in October last year.

He is likely to meet External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan and Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon.

The envoy also defended the “final assault” launched by Sri Lankan troops against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) after the latter ignored a 24-hour deadline Tuesday to surrender saying it has been done to liberate civilians from the clutches of the LTTE.

“It’s an operation mounted for humanitarian reasons. The exercise is necessary to ensure the exit of civilians from the LTTE-held area,” the Sri Lankan envoy said.

“Our approach has been to keep open the corridor so that the maximum number of civilians can get out and get the best possible medical, sanitation and nutrition relief,” he explained. “It’s a huge logistical exercise.”

Alluding to 62,000 trapped civilians crossing the northern war zone into safe zones Tuesday, the envoy said it showed people were “really desperate to move out of the LTTE’s clutches.”

“This is not an exercise mounted by a sovereign nation against another nation. The citizens are entitled to equal protection,” the envoy said.

“The citizens of Sri Lanka are being held against their will. The state has every right to intervene and return them to safety.”

According to the Sri Lankan envoy, 65,000 people were able to extricate themselves from the LTTE-held areas earlier and an equal number have managed to escape in the last forty-eight hours.

He, however, declined to give a number of the civilians remaining in the conflict zone.

The so-called “final assault” by Sri Lankan troops has evoked concerns in India with Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi sending a frantic telegram to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi, the head of the ruling coalition, over the “alarming” situation in Sri Lanka.

He asked them to give an ultimatum to Colombo “for an immediate and permanent ceasefire and save lakhs of Tamils in Sri Lanka”.

India has conveyed concerns and appealed to Colombo to ensure the safe exit of Tamil civilians.

Thousands of Tamil civilians streamed out of a strip of land in coastal Mullaitivu district Wednesday after troops poured into the last remaining base of the LTTE.

According to Sri Lanka military spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella, 81,420 civilian refugees had been counted since Monday in the Puthumathalan area, about 390 km northeast of Colombo, and the exodus was continuing.

“We need to capture only eight more kilometres to regain full control of the area,” Rambukwella said.

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