Tamil Tigers on last leg declare truce, Sri lanka wants surrender (Roundup)

April 26th, 2009 - 7:38 pm ICT by IANS  

Colombo, April 26 (IANS) The Tamil Tigers, who are now squeezed into an area of less than eight sq km in the island’s north following a major military offensive, Sunday announced a “unilateral ceasefire”. But the Sri Lankan government rejected it outright, saying that the rebels should lay down arms 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 Centre for National Security, told IANS.

“There is no ceasefire,” he stressed.

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

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

“The suffering inflicted on our people by the Sri Lankan armed forces in violation of all international humanitarian laws has now reached its peak. Over 165,000 people living within the coastal area under our control in Mullaitivu are being subject to continuous attacks by Sri Lankan Navy, Air Force and infantry,” the LTTE statement said, claiming that “deaths due to starvation were imminent”.

The LTTE unilateral truce offer coincided with the visit of UN humanitarian chief John Holmes’s visit to Sri Lanka “to assess the needs of tens of thousands of civilians who fled rebel-held areas or remain trapped in the war-zone”.

“We have taken into account the recent declarations by the G8 nations, the White House, Indian ministers and the EU and other members of international community. We are in full agreement that the humanitarian crisis can only be overcome by the declaration of an immediate ceasefire,” the LTTE said.

Holmes Sunday expressed “extreme concern about the civilian casualties”, called for a pause in Sri Lanka fighting while urging the LTTE to free civilians and lay down their weapons.

However, the LTTE did not make any reference to this call by the UN humanitarian chief.

Sri Lanka, encouraged by the series of military victories against the LTTE, had vowed not to bow to any international pressure for a ceasefire until the LTTE was completely defeated and civilians under rebels’ control were fully rescued.

The state-run Sunday Observer quoting the country’s powerful Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa said that the ongoing military operation “will continue until (LTTE leader) Prabhakaran is caught and till the army captures the land completely”.

“Almost 98 percent of the civilians trapped inside the no-fire-zone (NFZ) have reached the cleared areas and the humanitarian operation of the army will be (continued) to liberate these people”, Rajapaksa has been quoted as saying.

The defence ministry said that soldiers of 58 Division Sunday captured Valayarmadam, a coastal village in the Tamil Tigers-held no-fire-zone in the north-eastern Mullaitivu district, further squeezing the LTTE into a small coastal land strip.

“Troops declared the area fully secured this (Sunday) morning. So far, soldiers have been able to rescue over 500 hostages,” it said.

Valayarmadam is just six km short of Vellamullivaikkal, the last remaining LTTE hideout where thousands of civilians were still trapped.

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) since January to over 180,000.

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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