Ban Ki-moon 'helping LTTE' – Sri Lanka

[TamilNet, Thursday, 11 September 2008, 15:35 GMT]
Sri Lanka’s hardline government Thursday criticised United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for expressing deep concern about Tamil civilians in the Vanni region. Sri Lankan human rights ministry official Rajiva Wijesinghe told reporters that there were no civilian casualties in the Colombo government’s ongoing offensive and that the UN Chief’s comments were helping the LTTE.

On Wednesday a UN statement in New York said: "the secretary general expresses his deep concern over the increased hostilities in northern Sri Lanka, and the grave humanitarian consequences for civilians."

“In light of the [Sri Lankan] Government’s request for the relocation of UN humanitarian staff in affected areas, he (Ban Ki-moon) reminds all concerned of their responsibility to take active steps to ensure the safety and freedom of movement of civilians, allowing humanitarian organisations to do their work in safety, as well as to reach persons affected by the fighting who need humanitarian assistance,” the statement said.

"The Secretary-General reminds all concerned of their obligations under international humanitarian law, especially in regard to the principle of proportionality and the selection of targets," the statement also said.

Sri Lanka’s government, which customarily bristles at foreign criticism of its military’s human rights record, flatly rejected the UN Secretary General’s comments.

“Since there have been hardly any civilian casualties during the recent offensives in Sri Lanka, it is possible that the Secretary General was prompted by reports of large numbers of civilian casualties in other theatres of war, which misled him into believing that all forces fighting terrorism are alike,” Wijesinghe said.

“It is to be hoped however that, even while he might want to send a message to other countries, he will study the Sri Lankan situation carefully in the future. Perhaps, with knowledge there will come wisdom, and he will publicly acknowledge the extraordinarily good record of the Sri Lankan forces in this regard, their careful selection of military targets, the paucity of even collateral damage,” Wijesinghe said.

"Unfortunately, the secretary general may not have realised that his remarks could be used to advantage by the LTTE, who will use any weapon to hand, including an innocent secretary general, to halt the advance of Sri Lankan forces," Wijesinghe said in a statement.

He said the LTTE "will relish that he made these remarks".

According to UN agencies, at least 160 000 people have been displaced in the past few months in the LTTE-held districts of Mullaittivu and Kilinochchi. More than 70 000 people have fled due to fighting in the past two months alone.

 

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