Sri Lanka rejects LTTE’s unilateral ceasefire call (Second Lead)

April 26th, 2009 - 7:12 pm ICT by IANS  

Colombo, April 26 (IANS) The Tamil Tigers facing an unprecedented military thrust in its last stronghold Sunday announced a “unilateral ceasefire”, but the Sri Lankan government rejected it outright saying the rebels should lay down their weapons and surrender.
“The government position has been that there will be no ceasefire until the LTTE lay down their weapons and surrender. There is no change in the government stand,” Lakshman Hulugalle, the director general of Sri Lanka’s Media Center for National Security told IANS.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in a statement said: “In the face of an unprecedented humanitarian crisis and in response to the calls made by the UN, EU, the governments of the USA, India and others, the LTTE has announced a unilateral ceasefire.

“All of LTTE’s offensive military operations will cease with immediate effect,” it declared.

Expressing “extreme concern over civilian casualties”, a senior UN envoy Sunday had called for a pause in fighting in Sri Lanka and urged the Tamil Tigers to free civilians and lay down their weapons.

“The months of fighting during which the inhabitants of the conflict zone have been trapped have taken a terrible toll among the civilian population,” UN Humanitarian Affairs chief John Holmes said, stressing the need to get out the tens of thousands of civilians still trapped in the conflict zone without any harm.

“I call on the LTTE with all the urgency I can to let out the remaining civilian population and lay down their arms; and on the government to exercise maximum restraint including no use of heavy weapons,” a UN statement quoted Holmes as saying.

“We need a new humanitarian pause to get aid and aid workers into the combat zone. We must have access to all IDPs (Internally Displaced People) wherever they are, including in the conflict zone, and the screening process must also be made more transparent,” said Holmes.

Nearly 110,000 people have fled the war-zone and come to the government-controlled areas since last Monday, taking the total number of Internally Displaced People (IDP) to over 180,000.

Although government officials say that they were coping with the situation in providing the basic facilities to the IDPs, the UN said that the sudden flow of such a large mass of people “threatens to overwhelm existing systems”.

The Tamil Tigers have been fighting for a separate homeland in the country’s northern and eastern provinces for the past quarter century.

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