HAF Seeks Immediate Cease-Fire in Sri Lanka to Avoid Massacre of Innocent Civilians

Washington, D.C. (April 22, 2009).  The situation in Sri Lanka has become dire, as the two-decade old war between the majority Sinhalese and the minority Tamils approaches a dangerous military endgame.  The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), designated as a terrorist organization by more than 30 countries, has been fighting for a separate Tamil homeland since 1976.  The situation turned extremely dangerous for the 50,000 to 100,000 ethnic Tamils caught between the LTTE forces earlier this month, fighting a last ditch battle in a small area of the eastern seaboard, and the Sri Lankan army demanding an unconditional surrender from the LTTE.  The LTTE has said it will never surrender, and in that bid is holding the civilian population hostage. 


More than 4,500 people have died since January 2009, and news reports trickling in from Sri Lanka indicate that the civilian population has been brutalized: one in four children under 5 were malnourished, and one in four children had limbs amputated, according to UNICEF.  The International Society of the Red Cross has termed the situation “catastrophic.” The Sri Lankan government has not paid heed to the calls from nations around the world to observe a cease-fire to enable evacuation of the civilian population.  While the government paused fighting for two days, it ignored calls for cease-fire talks demanded by the LTTE.   


Journalists have been barred from the area of conflict, making many on ground reports unreliable.  While the LTTE have claimed that government forces have wounded 1,400 and killed 492 children, the government says that the LTTE is killing civilians for propaganda purposes. 


The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) called for an immediate cease-fire to enable the evacuation of innocent civilians.  “The gamesmanship displayed by the Sri Lankan army and the LTTE forces should be condemned, and international pressure should be brought to bring a peaceful end to this dangerous standoff,” said Ishani Chowdhury, HAF's Director of Public Policy.  “It's a war that has gone on for too long and such a standoff, as we are seeing now, could lead to a slaughter of innocent civilians of unprecedented proportions.”


HAF has condemned both the Sri Lankan army as well as the LTTE for the violence, for the loss and displacement of innocent civilians, and the destruction of Hindu temples and other places of worship.  HAF believes there can be no military solution to the problem and the conflict should be settled through a durable political solution.