GENEVA: Sri Lanka’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva yesterday rejected calls for a humanitarian pause in the Tamil conflict, saying temporary ceasefires did not work.
“The largest number of civilians who have come out (of the conflict zone) came out not during the humanitarian pause, not as a result of the humanitarian pause,” said Dayan Jayatilleke.
“They came out as a result of a military operation which … blindsided the .”
The United Nations on April 17 made a fresh call for humanitarian pauses to allow civilians to flee. Rajiva Wijesinha, who heads Sri Lanka’s government Secretariat for Coordination of the Peace Process, said in Geneva that 110,000 people have fled the conflict zone since renewed hostilities.
Jayatilleke and Wijesinha spoke in a press conference as hundreds of Tamils streamed into the main square outside the UN building a kilometre (half- mile) away to demonstrate against hostilities in the north of Sri Lanka.
Sheryl Mathavan, an organiser of the event, said “thousands are expected,” including about 2,000 from Switzerland and many other Tamils from other European countries. “We are demonstrating against genocide and racial discrimination in Sri Lanka. We want an immediate ceasefire. We want the UN to intervene to stop the genocide,” she said, as she joined demonstrators carrying the Tamil Tiger flag.
Both Sri Lankan officials criticised the demonstration, with Wijesinha saying he was “deeply upset that countries which have banned the Tigers are not treating this as terrorism.”
“How can Western liberal society permit a movement that is clearly militarised to use and misuse western democratic space in this manner?” Jayatilleke said.