4TH LEAD (Adds Obama video / text)

Will Obama take full responsibility of Tamil homeland, ask Tamil circles

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 13 May 2009, 20:57 GMT]
As news reports quote US President Barack Obama saying Tamil Tigers to "free civilians," and Colombo government to stop indiscriminate shelling, Tamil circles in the US asked whether President Obama is prepared to take full responsibility of the Tamil homeland and whether he is prepared to give full assurance to the freedom and the aspirations of the Tamil people.

[Full text of the statement by President Obama is provided at the end]

PDF IconObama addressing Tamil suffering
"I'm also calling on the Sri Lankan government to take several steps to alleviate this humanitarian crisis," the President said.

Obama addressing Sri Lanka issues
Obama addressing Sri Lanka issues
"First, the government should stop the indiscriminate shelling that has taken hundreds of innocent lives, including (in) several hospitals," UK's Telegraph quoted President Obama as saying.

While admitting, during the remark outside the White House, that Sri Lanka "hasn't received much attention" with several "big issues going on," the President said, "the government should live up to its commitment to not use heavy weapons in the conflict zone," and should grant UN and Red Cross aid workers access to suffering civilians, according to Telegraph report.

"Without urgent action this humanitarian crisis could turn into a catastrophe," Reuters quoted Obama as saying.

Amnesty International, in a press release issued today, urged "President Barack Obama to speak out against the indiscriminate killing of civilians in the current conflict between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)."

Meanwhile, a more critical article on the weekly magazine Time, said Obama is "failing," in the [humanitarian] test on Sri Lanka, saying, "unlike Darfur, where the most egregious crimes were committed long before the current Administration took office, the humanitarian disaster in Sri Lanka has unfolded within the past 100 days, on Obama's watch."

Full text of the statement by President Obama issued by the US Embassy in Colombo on Thursday follows:

STATEMENT BY PRESIDENT OBAMA ON THE SITUATION IN SRI LANKA

4:12 P.M. EDT, May 13, 2009

THE PRESIDENT: Hello, everybody. Sorry to keep you guys waiting. Good to see you. I want to take a few moments at the top to talk about something that, with all the big issues going on, hasn't received much attention, but I think is worth talking about briefly.

As some of you know, we have a humanitarian crisis that's taking place in Sri Lanka, and I've been increasingly saddened by the desperate news in recent days. Tens of thousands of innocent civilians are trapped between the warring government forces and the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka with no means of escape, little access to food, water, shelter and medicine. This has led to widespread suffering and the loss of hundreds if not thousands of lives.

Without urgent action, this humanitarian crisis could turn into a catastrophe. Now is the time, I believe, to put aside some of the political issues that are involved and to put the lives of the men and women and children who are innocently caught in the crossfire, to put them first.

So I urge the Tamil Tigers to lay down their arms and let civilians go. Their forced recruitment of civilians and their use of civilians as human shields is deplorable. These tactics will only serve to alienate all those who carry them out.

I'm also calling on the Sri Lankan government to take several steps to alleviate this humanitarian crisis. First, the government should stop the indiscriminate shelling that has taken hundreds of innocent lives, including several hospitals, and the government should live up to its commitment to not use heavy weapons in the conflict zone.

Second, the government should give United Nations humanitarian teams access to the civilians who are trapped between the warring parties so that they can receive the immediate assistance necessary to save lives.

Third, the government should also allow the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross access to nearly 190,000 displaced people within Sri Lanka so that they can receive additional support that they need.

The United States stands ready to work with the international community to support the people of Sri Lanka in this time of suffering. I don't believe that we can delay. Now is the time for all of us to work together to avert further humanitarian suffering.

Going forward, Sri Lanka must seek a peace that is secure and lasting, and grounded in respect for all of its citizens. More civilian casualties and inadequate care for those caught in resettlement camps will only make it more difficult to achieve the peace that the people of Sri Lanka deserve.


Chronology:


External Links:
Time: Sri Lanka Puts Obama to the Test — and He's Failing
Atlantic: Bystanders to Genocide by Samantha Power
Amnesty: AI Calls on Obama Administration, U.N. Security Council to Act Now to Save Sri Lankan Civilians

 

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