A year after defeating rebels, reconciliation begins slowly in Sri Lanka (3)

16:06, May 20, 2010      

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The government claimed that the troops followed all humanitarian norms in its final offensive against the rebels and they had not used heavy weapons until it was confirmed that the last civilian fled the area.

The latest investigative report of the International Crisis Group (ICG) claimed that thousands of civilians died in Sri Lanka's final battle and most of them were killed by the troops' shelling.

ICG has also accused the LTTE of using civilians as human shield to block the military push.

"Evidence gathered by Crisis Group provides reasonable grounds to believe that during these months the security forces intentionally and repeatedly shelled civilians, hospitals and humanitarian operations," the report said, adding that the ICG has credible reasons to believe that senior government and military officials were aware of these deaths.

The ICG accused the government of failing to protect the civilian population as they were obliged to do so under the laws of war.

"The LTTE's calculation, ultimately an incorrect one, was that escalating civilian casualties would eventually get the attention of the international community to broker a cease-fire so the LTTE could regroup or perhaps enter negotiations," the report said.

There is no authoritative figure of the final civilian death toll of the Eelam War IV.

The government believes it is too early to withdraw troops from the former LTTE controled areas in the north and east.

Meanwhile, the Rajapaksa government has repeatedly rejected calls for an independent international inquiry into the alleged war crimes saying the troops never targeted the civilians in the no-fire zone and they rescued civilian hostages from the LTTE which was blamed for high civilian casualties.

The TNA demand for de-militarization of the north and east was also rejected by Defence Secretary Gotabhaya saying it would be foolish to pull out from those areas as the possibilities for the LTTE to re-organize persist.

Tamil political parties and India wants Rajapaksa government to declare its policy to address the grievances of Tamils but Gotabhaya had spelled out the government plans to consider developing the war revenged areas rather than devolving power.

"The people of the war-ravaged areas now need roads, electricity, drinking water, schools, hospitals and jobs, much more than amendments to the constitution. With the former, they can rebuild their lives which had been stalled for near three decades. Then, surely ,the latter will follow," Gotabaya said.

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