'Our main concern is safety of IDPs' says President
"Our main concern is the safety of the civilians that
the LTTE is holding hostage for their human shield, and we are taking
every precaution to ensure their safety," said President Rajapaksa to
Sir John Holmes, the UN Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs
when they met at the Presidential Secretariat this morning.
The meeting followed the visit of Sir John to the IDP
camps at Vavuniya yesterday, when he saw at first hand the facilities,
provided to them and the arrangements made for the reception and care by
Referring the last night's LTTE air borne attack on
Colombo and Katunayake, when the Sri Lankan Air Force downed two
aircraft that had come to strike selected targets, the UN
Under-Secretary General expressed his sympathies to the President to the
civilians killed in the air attacks and the injury caused to civilians.
President Rajapaksa told Sir John that it as now
evident the LTTE was using the civilians for its gain as it they were
all it had to bargain. He said "The Government would cooperate with any
moves to have these civilians released from the LTTE's clutches, and
said it was necessary to bring about as much pressure as possible on the
LTTE, by all those interested in their safety to do so. "
"These are all my people, they are citizens of my
country and their safety is foremost to me" the President said.
He said that there cannot be an accurate count of the
number of civilians killed or injured in the military action against the
LTTE, as the LTTE was known to be using civilians and even children to
carry weapons for it, and was now putting them into action in the front.
When they where injured or killed, or if such injured persons came to
government held areas they would come and be counted as civilians.
"These civilians can be brought to safety if the LTTE,
lays down arms, as we have repeatedly called on them. If this is done we
will ensure that they are brought to safety," the President said.
In discussing the possibility of a political solution
to the prevailing crisis, President Rajapaksa said he was keen to a
political solution that was in keeping with the aspirations of all the
people, especially the people in the north who needed a solution most.
He said he was keen to listen to the view of the people who were
actually affected and not the views of those who living in comfort away
from the areas where the people were suffering and offering various
solutions. "I am keen to restore the rights of the people, re-settle
them as soon as possible in their homes, and ensure that there are
elections at the local government and provincial levels for them to
elect their own representatives, to bring about the actual return to
normalcy," he said.
Sir John Holmes said the UN was donating a further US
$10 million for the welfare of the IDPs, in addition to nearly USD$ 145
million given recently, and said he looked forward to a continuing
dialogue between Sri Lanka and the UN on the matters affecting the IDPs
and other related matters.
Sir John Holmes arrived in Sri Lanka on the invitation
of President Rajapaksa to the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to send a
colleague of his conversant with the situation in Sri Lanka to have a
first hand understanding of the situation regarding IDPs in the North.