B. Muralidhar Reddy

Send envoy to assess Colombo’s initiatives on civilian needs, U.N. told

COLOMBO: Amid claims by the Sri Lankan military that the LTTE was now confined to an area of about 100 sq. km. in the Mullathivu district, the government announced on Wednesday that President Mahinda Rajapaksa would soon call a meeting of representatives of Tamil political parties to discuss an “inclusive process” in the pursuit of a political solution to the ethnic strife.

Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama informed a gathering of the diplomatic community based here that Mr. Rajapaksa had decided to call a meeting of the TNA, TULF, EPDP, CWC, and other Tamil political parties “in order to have an inclusive process which will be reflected in the future political agenda”.

The Minister urged the international community to exert pressure on the LTTE to free the civilians who were being held captive in the north and release the innocent children forcibly recruited into their combat ranks.

He appealed to the international community to understand the complexities of the ground situation and talked about the government’s paramount concern over the plight of civilians being held hostage behind LTTE lines.

Separately, the Indian High Commission said High Commissioner Alok Prasad visited Ampara, Batticaloa and Trincomalee in Eastern Province on February 16 and 17 to hold talks on development plans of the province and ways in which India could contribute.

The statement said India had already provided 10 buses for the use of the administration of the province and the Batticaloa Municipal Council. The High Commissioner also announced that India would assist with the establishment of 20 Nenasalas in the province and finance a project to connect Batticaloa and Trincomalee by a rail-bus service at the request of the Chief Minister.

The statement said projects to assist the education and health sector in Eastern Province would also be undertaken. Mr. Prasad visited the proposed site in Sampur of the NTPC-CEB joint coal power project and the Lanka IOC facilities at Trincomalee.

Meanwhile, pro-LTTE TamilNet alleged that at least 50 civilians were killed on Wednesday when four Air Force bombers dropped cluster bombs on civilians at Aananthapuram in Ira’naippaalai.

Mr. Rajapaksa has requested U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to arrange a visit to Sri Lanka by one of his colleagues for a first hand assessment of the initiatives undertaken by his government to address the humanitarian needs of civilians and IDPs held hostage by the LTTE in the north of Sri Lanka.