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Thursday, 5 February 2009 - Strasbourg OJ edition

Situation in Sri Lanka

  Thomas Mann, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group.(DE) Madam President, as a member of the SAARC Delegation, I was able to visit Sri Lanka several times. I saw for myself on the ground how much the population is suffering as a result of the civil war that has been going on for 25 years and has claimed 70 000 lives. Fighting between government forces and the LTTE has further escalated. Large parts of the north have been brought under control and strongholds of the Tamil rebels have been taken.

What human rights organisations in both Colombo and Jaffna told me at the time is unfortunately confirmed time and again: ‘war is an institution’. The humanitarian situation is alarming. There are refugees in their thousands. There is a lack of medical care and of food. Aid agencies must be given unrestricted access to the civilian population in a cease-fire to be agreed. The government has set up corridors to facilitate the evacuation of civilians from the combat areas; it is incomprehensible that the Tamil Tigers have failed to respect this safe zone, are continuing to fire and are using people as human shields.

The Tokyo group, consisting of Japan, the United States, Norway and the European Union, has called on the LTTE leadership to negotiate the details of a cease-fire with the Sri Lankan Government at long last. The launch of a peace process is in the interests of everyone – including the Tamils. I expressly welcome the decision by the government to comply with the 13th Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution and hand over the competent provincial council to the elected representatives of the north and the east. We also expect it to respect a guarantee of a careful, neutral investigation into the human rights violations we have just discussed and the violations of press freedom. Security and stability must not remain a pipe dream for Sri Lankans.

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