AMID growing international anger over the plight of Sri Lankan civilians caught up in fighting as government troops close in on the Tamil Tigers, the President has ruled out any pardon for the rebel leader.
Sri Lankan troops yesterday encountered “dwindling but constant resistance” as they advanced into the small area in the country's north-east still controlled by the rebels.
“They are now in a stretch of only eight kilometres along the coastline,” the army spokesman, Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara, told the Herald in Colombo. The military was confident the Tamil Tiger leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, and commanders were trapped.
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam have fought for 25 years for a separate Tamil homeland. President Mahinda Rajapaksa said they could “not hold out for much longer” and promised to punish Prabhakaran.
“[He] has spurned the possibility of pardon by us,” his office said. “He must now face the consequences of his acts.”
Brigadier Nanayakkara said more than 103,000 civilians have moved from rebel territory since Monday but there are concerns tens of thousands could still be in the combat zone.
The medical aid group Doctors Without Borders said a growing number of civilians with blast injuries and gunshot wounds were arriving at a hospital near the zone. The 450-bed hospital now had more than 1700 patients, the group said.
In a sign of the growing international concern about the conflict, the United Nations Security Council called on the Tamil Tigers to surrender.
Sri Lanka's influential neighbour, India, demanded an end to the suffering of Tamil civilians. “We are very unhappy at the continued killing of innocent Tamil civilians in Sri Lanka,” said the Foreign Minister, Pranab Mukherjee. “These killings must stop. The Sri Lankan Government has a responsibility to protect its own citizens.”
Mr Mukherjee also demanded that the Tamil Tigers stop the “barbaric” attempt to hold civilians hostage. “There is no military solution to this ongoing humanitarian crisis, and all concerned should recognise this fact,” he said.
In the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, home to more than 60 million Tamils, there is deep concern about the treatment of Sri Lankan Tamils.
Tamil Nadu was paralysed yesterday by a general strike, called by the Chief Minister, Dr Kalaignar M. Karunanidhi, to press the Indian Government to insist on an immediate ceasefire in Sri Lanka.
The US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, also criticised Colombo's handling of the crisis.
“I think that the Sri Lankan Government knows that the entire world is very disappointed that in its efforts to end what it sees as 25 years of conflict, it is causing such untold suffering,” she said.
Emboldened by a recent string of military triumphs, the Government has refused to stop fighting.