Safety of trapped Tamils a top priority, UK told

(April 27, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama outlined to David Miliband, Secretary of State for Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs of the UK when they spoke today (27/4/2009) that the foremost priority of the Sri Lanka Government is to ensure the safety of civilians entrapped in the North, and combat operations had reached its conclusion. The telephone call was initiated by Foreign Secretary Miliband. Minister Bogollagama explained that the security forces hitherto had been engaged in a rescue mission of the entrapped civilians and would continue to do so since the LTTE had not made any attempts to release the persons being held hostage.

Foreign Secretary Miliband acknowledged this effort of the government of Sri Lanka in protecting the entrapped civilians. With regard to the humanitarian requirements, Foreign Minister Bogollagama outlined the international assistance received, which includes two field hospitals from the governments of India and France. With the exodus of IDPs, they exchanged views on the related needs and Foreign Secretary Miliband informed that the UK had pledged an additional contribution of Sterling Pounds 2.5 million today.

Minister Bogollagama pointed out that the resettlement of the IDPs in the shortest possible duration is a high priority of the government of Sri Lanka. While welcoming Foreign Secretary Miliband’s forthcoming visit to Colombo, the Minister outlined the details of the proposed programme. He also observed that the government of Sri Lanka wished to confine this visit on a bilateral basis to the Foreign Ministers of France and the UK. The British Foreign Secretary stated that he was looking forward to his forthcoming visit to Sri Lanka. Minister Bogollagama has extended an invitation to his Swedish counterpart to visit Sri Lanka in May this year at a mutually convenient time.

Minister Bogollagama also met today with Michael Foster, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Department of International Development, UK, who is currently on a one day visit to Sri Lanka to assess the needs of the IDPs. In the context of his visit to the IDP welfare village in Vavuniya, Minister Bogollagama pointed out that the government of Sri Lanka had done its utmost to provide the required facilities and would replicate the action taken in the Eastern province in the resettlement of the IDPs in the North, which would be done under UNHCR supervision. He further explained that demining the area and developing the infrastructure are imperative for this resettlement process. The Minister further referred to the requirement of assistance in demining following the LTTE resorting to heavily mining the villages when they retreated from those areas.

Under-Secretary Foster pointed out that the British government can support the resettlement process in the North with its expertise. He further stated that the British government had sought the assistance of the Members of Parliament to send a message through the diaspora back to the LTTE seeking the release of the civilians held hostage.
-Sri Lanka Guardian