Sri Lankan rebels appealed to the international community to pressure the government against taking further military action in Tamil areas, saying the raids in response to a suicide bombing amounted to genocide.
The government of Sri Lanka has “openly declared war” and other countries are “turning a blind eye” to the assaults, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam said in a statement late yesterday after the air strikes on rebel positions. “We call on the international community to strongly condemn this genocidal attempt on the Tamil-speaking people.”
India loathes Tigers, fears impact of Sri Lanka war
No country mistrust the Tamil Tigers more than India but when Sri Lanka began bombing rebel positions this week its giant neighbour got nervous.
The air and artillery strikes, which followed a suspected Tiger suicide bomb attack that killed 10 and wounded the army commander, halted on Thursday, with the government under international pressure — not least from New Delhi — to stop.
In just a few weeks, things in Sri Lanka have gone from peaceful to nearly out of control.
More from DJ Mitchell, who lived in Sri Lanka for several years, working with Sarvodaya, an organization working to end the civil war.
In the past few weeks, violence has been increasing in the area of Trincomalee. LTTE attacks on the one hand, and Sinhala extremist attacks on the other, had already (according to BBC reports) driven several hundred people from their homes. The military appears not to have been involved in these attacks, although there are reports (also through BBC) of disappearances and extra-judicial killings at the hands of the security forces.
On Tuesday this week, a suicide bomber attacked Army HQ, seriously wounding the top general and killing 8 bystanders. On Wednesday, the military responded by bombing LTTE positions around Trinco, and the LTTE also used mortars against Navy ships. The LTTE reported 40,000 refugees were driven out, though my sources put that number closer to 15,000, and a smaller number around Batticaloa (which has not made the news).
On Thursday, there was a lull in the violence. Public gatherings in Colombo were banned ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã…“for public safety.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã‚Â Meanwhile, the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission has been working urgently to get the two parties back to the negotiating table.
Is this a return to war, or is it two sides jockeying for better position in prelude to further talks? My sources think it is the latter, though I am not completely convinced. What is most troubling to me about the events of this week is not the inter-party violence, but a return to the indiscriminate killing of civilians: by the LTTE’s suicide bomber and by military’s the shelling.
Everywhere I have gone in the war affected areas, Sinhalese people have told me, “We do not want to fight Tamils,” and Tamil people have told me, “We do not want to fight Sinhalese.” In my opinion, this is a war perpetrated by the leaders of both sides on the people of Sri Lanka. The challenge is getting the voice of the people to be heard.
How can the peace movement respond to this upsurge in violence? The plans we had continue to move forward, but clearly a new and significant response is called for if we are to have any effect on the situation. What that response will be we do not yet know. For now, it is back to the planning stage.