Sri Lanka and the keeping of promises

April 30, 2009

The U.N. said today (April 29) that two aerial bombardments were reported in the conflict zone in northeastern Sri Lanka on April 28.  This follows the Sri Lankan government’s statement last Monday that the security forces had been instructed to end the use of combat aircraft and aerial weapons, in their ongoing offensive against the opposition Tamil Tigers.  Is the Sri Lankan government keeping to its promise?  The Tigers are now confined to a small strip of coastal land, about 5 square miles, in northeastern Sri Lanka.  With the Tigers are an estimated 50,000 civilians, who’ve been prevented by the Tigers from leaving the area.

For their part, the Tigers had declared a unilateral ceasefire last Sunday.  The Sri Lankan government said today that the Tigers’ ceasefire was a bluff as the Tigers had reportedly carried out seven suicide attacks against government troops in the prior 24 hours.  Are the Tigers keeping to their ceasefire promise?

The foreign ministers of both Great Britain and France visited Sri Lanka today and tried to get the Sri Lankan government to halt its offensive against the Tigers and allow humanitarian aid into the conflict area.  The ministers later reported that they had failed to get the Sri Lankan government to make this commitment.  The U.N appealed again today for a humanitarian pause in the fighting to allow the trapped civilians to leave the war zone and to allow aid into the zone.  The Sri Lankan government has not promised to cease fighting, and the Tigers have not promised to let the civilians leave if the government did call a temporary halt.

In response to the over 100,000 civilians who’ve fled the war zone over the past 10 days, the U.N. and various international donors have pledged millions of dollars in emergency assistance in recent days.

There are promises that need to be made by each side in Sri Lanka’s conflict and promises that, having been made, need to be kept.  The international community should hold both sides to account and should be sure to honor its own pledges of assistance to the displaced civilians.