Sri Lanka rejects Co-Chairs’ condemnation, continues attacks

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 22 November 2006, 12:25 GMT]
Unfazed by strong condemnation by international donors of rights abuses and truce violations by its military, Sri Lanka’s government Wednesday continued air strikes and bombardment against the Liberation Tigers. Saying the donors had been “mislead” by international truce monitors and a UN envoy, government defense spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella insisted that national security took precedence over the ceasefire and that the international community recognised this.

After a key meeting Tuesday, the Co-Chairs of the donor community – the United States, Japan, European Union and peace facilitator Norway – said they were alarmed by the rising violence gripping the island.

The quartet condemned “the continued and systematic ceasefire violations by the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE.”

They also condemned “the growing violations of human rights by all sides and the fear that pervades civil society, politics and the media.”

The Co-Chairs wanted the “immediate, permanent and unconditional opening of the sea and road routes for humanitarian convoys of essential supplies.”

They also singled out the A9 highway which is being held closed by Colombo.

But Rambukwella said Co-chairs issued no strictures against the government.

"It was rumoured that the co-chairs were going to come down hard on the government," Rambukwella he told AFP. "Nothing of the sort happened."

He also insisted the international community recognised that Sri Lanka had a right to defend itself when attacked by the Tigers.

"As long as the terrorists attack, we will respond," Rambukwella told AFP.

President Mahinda Rajapakse's government has repeatedly rejected allegations by international truce monitors of troop involvement in extrajudicial killings during a surge in violence this year.

U.N. envoy Allan Rock has also accused elements of the military of helping to abduct children to turn them into soldiers for a Tamil paramilitary group allied with it against the Tigers.

"The co-chairs would have been influenced by Allan Rock and the SLMM (Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission) and that is misleading," government defense spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella told Reuters hours after the donors issued their damning statement.

"Obviously on the basis of national security, we have to react on certain issues. That can be ... systematic erosion or violation of the ceasefire," Rambukwella added.

"But this becomes inevitable unless the LTTE change their stance of terror."

Meanwhile, the military said fighter jets attacked two LTTE naval bases in the northwestern district of Mannar, while the LTTE said the Sri Lanka Army was shelling a planned humanitarian aid route to Vaharai in the east where thousands of displaced are facing starvation.


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