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3rd December, 2006  Volume 13, Issue  21

First with the news and free with its views                                     First with the news and free with its views                             First with the news and free with its views                                    

Issues

The unfair attack on Allan Rock

By D.B.S. Jeyaraj 

Allan Rock, former Canadian cabinet minister and envoy to the United Nations, has been at the receiving end of a vicious campaign of ....

More....


More Issues

 > How Mahinda sabotaged himself in India (....Pot Shots)

 > A country at cross roads

 > A journalist's agony at the hands of the law makers...

 > Sajin -  the Rs. 3616 billion man

 > Vadai seller confesses to raping and killing Nishadi Buddhika

 > Inside story of journalist Parameshwary

 > Hats off to Sashi Girl!

 > Gung-ho Middle East foreign policy loses steam

 > Cutting the grass under Mangala's feet


The unfair attack on Allan Rock

Allan Rock 

By D.B.S. Jeyaraj 

Allan Rock, former Canadian cabinet minister and envoy to the United Nations, has been at the receiving end of a vicious campaign of vilification in Sri Lanka.

The 'patriotic hawks' are attacking him in parliament and from political platforms. In typical Lankan style his effigy is being taken out in procession and burnt. One was seen hanging from a tree in front of a UN office in Colombo.Everybody who is somebody in the Sinhala far right love to hate him.

 The crimsonian national socialists and saffron clad ethno - fascists are systematically demonising him.

White Tiger target

Charging the suddha or white man of conspiring to harm Sri Lanka and help the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) is nothing new. Norwegian Special Peace Envoy Erik Solheim who is now a cabinet minister was and still remains the favourite vellaip puli (white Tiger target).

If Solheim's fault was trying to facilitate a peaceful negotiated settlement the daggers are drawn against, Allan Rock for a different reason. The 59-year-old lawyer undertook a special mission for the UN to investigate the condition of children in an armed conflict situation. Rock held a press conference prior to his departure and placed the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL), Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the LTTE breakaway Karuna faction known as Tamil Makkal Viduthalaip Puligal (TMVP) in the dock.

The UN mission's initial findings revealed that the LTTE has not complied with its commitments to stop child recruitment and to release all children within its ranks. The mission also found that the Karuna faction, a group that broke away from the LTTE, is continuing to abduct and forcibly recruit children in government-controlled areas in eastern Sri Lanka.

Evidence

Furthermore, the mission found disturbing but credible evidence that certain elements of the government security forces are supporting and sometimes participating in those abductions.

Rock, who spent 10 days in Sri Lanka from November 8 to 14, stated that he will be submitting his final report to the UN Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict in January next year. Rock had visited Sri Lanka in the capacity of Special Adviser to the SRSG or Special Representative of the UN Secretary General on Children and Armed Conflict (CAAC).

In recent times the UN has been taking up the question of child soldiers very seriously. Acting on the recommendation of the SRSG, strictures have been issued and even sanctions implemented against offending parties.

The issue of the LTTE conscripting minors was nothing new and it was well-known that the Tigers would be criticised. It was also common knowledge that the Karuna faction was also forcibly recruiting children and that sections of the armed forces were aiding and abetting some cases.

Media frenzy

But when Rock wearing the stamp of UN legitimate credibility came out openly with the charge that security forces were allegedly guilty of helping Karuna faction conscription, the media went to town.

The LTTE was forgotten in the media frenzywith focus on the government's role in conscription. The excreta really collided with the oscillator. The armed forces took umbrage over the charges being leveled. The government found itself in a precarious situation and was forced to defend itself and the armed forces.

Instead of responding to the UN charges in a responsible manner and conducting an open inquiry into the allegations, the government sought to place the onus on Rock. It wanted him to supply the evidence to conduct an inquiry. The government could have unilaterally utilised the opportunity to prove its bona fides if it was really innocent. That it did not do so was by itself significant.

Government green light

The government itself gave the green light in tacitly declaring open season on Rock. Defence Spokesperson Minister Keheliya Rambukwella told The Morning Leader that President Mahinda Rajapakse had initiated an inquiry through the Foreign Ministry to ascertain whether Rock exceeded his mandate by accusing the government.

"The President has instructed the Foreign Ministry to inform all relevant authorities for a strong explanation into Rock's statement. The President has also called for an immediate inquiry into the allegations. However, such a serious statement accusing the government, was totally beyond Rock's mandate," Minister Rambukwella said.

Minister Rambukwella also criticised Rock by saying that if the UN official could make such a statement within hours of visiting the affected areas, then the government would willingly hand over the Raviraj investigation to the UN, rather than calling the Scotland Yard.

"If Rock is such an expert who could make these comments within hours of visiting the northeast, then he could solve the Raviraj assassination within days. We do not need the Scotland Yard then," Rambukwella said.

Raking up muck

As the campaign against Rock gathered steam, efforts were underway as usual to rake up muck against him. His Canadian political career was scrutinised. Either through ill-informed error or deliberate design, Rock was depicted as an LTTE supporter. He had been a liberal party MP and minister. The Canadian Liberals were accused of being soft on the LTTE. Rock was accused of being one too. There was a mad rush to accuse Rock of having attended a controversial fund-raiser dinner for the LTTE.

The facts however do not bear out the charges against Rock in this respect. The dinner in question was organised by the now defunct LTTE front, the Federation of Associations of Canadian Tamils (FACT). The only two Liberal party MPs who attended it were Paul Martin and Maria Minna. Rock was nowhere near the place.

There is also no record of him having ever attended a pro-Tiger meeting or demonstration in Canada. In fact Rock was justice minister when Suresh Manickavasagam, the alleged head of the LTTE in Canada, was issued a national security certificate in 1995.

LTTE proscription

There is also no known evidence of Rock having played a part in the Liberal Party decision to put a proposed LTTE proscription on hold in Canada. In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attack on the New York twin towers there was an upsurge of anti-terrorism feelings in the West. Canada passed a harsh Anti Terrorism Law known as C-36 and began banning foreign terrorist organisations on a staggered basis.

When South Asia's turn came, only five organisations (two Sikh and two Kashmiri) were proscribed. The LTTE was let off the hook. The reason for this was that the LTTE was engaged in a peace process with the government. It was felt that an early proscription could affect the process.

Canada is home to the largest Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora. Later when the Conservatives under Stephen Harper - described as being a George Bush sycophant - came to power the LTTE was banned.

Accusations are being made now that Rock was responsible for the Liberals soft-pedaling the LTTE proscription. Again the facts are contrary. Media reports of the time indicated that it was then Foreign Minister Bill Graham who pressed for a freeze on the proposed ban. The entire cabinet was reportedly guided by Graham on this as he was easily the most knowledgeable minister on Sri Lanka. He was also foreign minister.

In fairness to Graham the decision to put the Tiger ban on hold was a sound one at that time. It must be noted however that the Liberal government "barred" many people suspected of links to the LTTE (including MPs) from entering Canada though the LTTE was not banned.

Irony

Interestingly enough Paul Martin as prime minister visited Sri Lanka after the tsunami. Bill Graham visited Sri Lanka as foreign minister. Maria Minna who lost her ministerial portfolio for reasons unconnected with Sri Lanka has also visited Sri Lanka twice in her capacity as head of the Canada-Sri Lanka Committee in the House of Commons. She led a trade delegation and a parliamentary delegation. She also visited Kilinochchi.

The very same patriotic hawks screaming out for Rock's blood were docile kittens when all these trips by these Canadian MPs took place. I am certainly not saying that demonstrations should have been held against them. I am only pointing out the irony of demonstrations protesting Rock being held now whereas those personalities made trips to Sri Lanka without any problem.

Though Rock has clean hands vis--vis the LTTE, he is being tarnished as a Tiger supporter while others were exempt. This shows that the Tiger stick is only a convenient device used when suited and really carries no conviction.

Rock is being demonised and vilified not because of any real or imaginary Tiger link. His 'offence' in the eyes of the patriotic hawks is that of bringing disrepute to the armed forces through his disclosures. No effort is being made to ascertain the merits or otherwise of these charges. Rock is being beaten with the Tiger stick unjustly and unfairly.

Background

Rock was born in 1947 and raised in Ottawa, Canada's capital. He practised law in Toronto for about 20 years. After entering politics he served for many years in former Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretien's cabinet. Rock has been justice minister and attorney general, health minister and industries minister during different periods under Chretien. When Chretien was retiring, Rock too announced his candidacy in the inner-party race to replace the outgoing PM.

Rock changed his mind and opted out of the race. He also decided not to contest elections again after being MP for 10 years. He was then appointed as Canada's ambassador to the UN and went to New York in early 2004.After the Conservatives took office, Rock tendered his resignation in February this year. He was asked by Prime Minister Harper to remain in office until June 30 this year.

After winding up his UN career in New York , Allan Rock had reportedly decided to relocate to Windsor City bordering Detroit river instead of Ottawa or Toronto. His intention apparently is to practice law with an old friend, Harvey Strosberg. Rock's lawyer wife Debora Hanscombe has already joined Strosberg's firm, it is said. Rock is widely tipped to head the Windsor University soon.

Special assignments

Meanwhile he is ready, able and willing to undertake special assignments like the one he did in Sri Lanka for the UN. Rock excels at mediation and arbitration. One of his final acts as ambassador was being instrumental in negotiating a peace treaty between the Sudanese government and the main rebel group in Darfur.

During his UN stint as Canada's Envoy, Rock worked extensively on human rights issues and was actively involved in the establishment of the UN Human Rights Council and the Peace-building Commission. Peace and Human rights have been his passion from his youth.

While an undergraduate in 1970 he was host in Ottawa to John Lennon of the Beatles just after the famous Montreal 'bed in.' Rock also served as chair of the Group of Friends of the Office of the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict.

It was this which led to his Sri Lanka assignment. The UN Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict is Radhika Coomaraswamy, a Sri Lankan national herself. It is usual procedure in the UN for an official to refrain from getting directly involved in matters concerning his or her native country. Since Sri Lanka was way up on the radar on the question of children in armed conflict, a fact-finding mission had to be sent. Coomaraswamy's choice of Rock as her special adviser on Sri Lanka was widely hailed.

No objection

The choice of Rock was duly conveyed to Colombo through the Lankan mission to the UN. There was no objection. Coomaraswamy also met President Mahinda Rajapakse when he was in New York for the General Assembly meeting. He was very receptive to the idea of Rock being sent on a UN mission to Sri Lanka. In fairness to Rajapakse, the Sri Lankan President did provide required access and assistance to Ambassador Rock while in Sri Lanka.

Rock met Rajapakse and told him of his findings. He also told him of his impending press conference. It is usual practice for UN representatives on such missions to hold a press conference prior to their departure. Transparency and openness is the reason. The report will be sent directly to the UN. Copies would be provided to all parties concerned in the report.

Rajapakse reportedly told Rock that action would be initiated if the charges were found to be true. Yet with the defence establishment and the ultra-right reacting harshly, the President's office too issued a convoluted press release. The UN coming out with a report indicting the Rajapakse regime of complicity in child soldier conscription is politically damning for the government. Hence the orchestrated response to Rock.

A man of Rock's background and stature would not rush hastily into making controversial disclosures. According to informed sources in diplomatic and human rights circles, the man had been preparing his brief earnestly. He had spent weeks prior to his Sri Lankan trip meeting knowledgeable people and reading material on the issue. He was also in possession of information gathered by reputed NGOs and HR agencies.

Sworn affidavits

Above all he directly met family members of victims and in some cases a few escaped conscripts. The Sri Lankan government has asked for proof. According to informed sources Rock has incontrovertible evidence in the form of sworn affidavits numbering over 50.

By all accounts Rock may send that 'evidence' to the government after 'sanitising' them. Given the tyranny of the Karuna faction and aligned security personnel people suspected of having provided information to Rock, they will certainly be victimised. So names. dates, places, etc., will have to be obliterated.

Furthermore, other agencies and institutions too have backed up Rock's findings. The University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna) issued a special report on June 7, which has details of Karuna faction conscription and security forces complicity. The Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) endorsed Rock's statement. UNICEF has issued a statement confirming it.

HRW stance

The Human Rights Watch (HRW) too has issued a preliminary statement on child conscription which tallies with Rock. The HRW final report will be out early January.

Given the overwhelming evidence about conscriptions and state complicity there seems to be no way in which the government can deny the charges. Yet there is a stubborn defiance and tendency to shoot the messenger.

Rock is no stranger to controversy having been the eye of many a storm as cabinet minister. It does seem unfair however for the man to be slandered so badly when he does not deserve to be attacked or seem to be at fault.

The final report to be submitted by Rock to the UN Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict will no doubt seal the lips of most critics. The government will lose face internationally. The only way out is to exit the state of denial and do effective damage control.

Bashing Rock may seem an easy way out for an insular political and military class and their acolytes. In the final analysis this will turn counter-productive. Those who knock their heads against a rock will bleed but the rock will stand firm.


A country at cross roads

Blood shed reaches Defense Secretary Secretary Gothabaya Rajapakse

By Amantha Perera 

Sri Lanka faces a monumental task of getting itself out of a very serious rot that has set in during the last 12 months. Within that year more 3500 have died in violence that appear to be on the rise once again.

"The hardliners are in the ascendancy on both sides. Until a way is found of altering political attitudes on both sides, the conflict is likely only to worsen," the International Crisis Group said the day after LTTE leader Vellupilai Prabhakaran delivered his Heroes' Day Speech with the grim warning that the almost five year old ceasefire was defunct.

As the country braced itself for the nasty predicament, observers poured into the speech, attempting to decipher the message. LTTE middle rungers in Kilinochchi said that the Tigers had not pulled out of the ceasefire but that it was at risk. They told The Sunday Leader that the A9 was the crucial issue, its continuing closure would prompt the Tigers to pull out.

It seems the message of the Tiger leader had been garbled in the interpretation, what Prabhakaran meant was that the government had broken the ceasefire and thus the ceasefire was defunct. According two LTTE spokesperson S Pulidevan and Rasiah Illantharoyan the LTTE leader had clearly laid it out in the Tamil text, the government had conducted the last rites on the CFA.

What lay next was clear four days after the speech, when the dreaded suicide bomber stuck again. This time it was at Greenpath when the convoy carrying Defence secretary Gothabaya Rajapakse was hit by a suicide cadre in a three wheeler. The Defence Secretary escaped unscathed. He drove straight to Temple Trees immediately after the attack and was greeted by a relieved President Mahinda Rajapakse.

President Rajapakse had immediately inquired after his brother when he heard the loud noise of the blast. The Defence Secretary was heading for the Security Council meeting when the attack took place.

Last week was the lowest ebb, what had started off an year ago with skirmishes and the occasional grenade attack has blown out to pre-2002 days.

Ironically it was exactly an year before the failed attempt on the Defence Secretary that the bloodshed began. On December 1, 2005, two Tamils heavily involved in organizing pro-LTTE events in Jaffna were killed. On December 4 and 6, 16 soldiers were killed in claymore attacks. On December 22 and 23 16 sailors were killed.

The list thereafter is littered with attacks, confrontations and bloodshed. 

"A new twin-track process emerged, in which a more hard-line military strategy mixed uncomfortably with a political strategy attempting to build a southern alliance, develop a

consensus around a political settlement and renew peace talks. But the political strategy seemed for the most part to be subordinate to the new military strategists, who were apparently convinced that a harsh counter-terrorist campaign, combined with aerial supremacy and conventional ground forces, could seriously weaken the LTTE," ICG said of the government strategy.

The Tigers fueled the fire, "The LTTE seemed intent on provoking the military into resuming the war. The army, which had been forced to show restraint in the face of LTTE provocations over the past three years, began to respond, often brutally. On December  25, 2005 unknown assassins - presumed to be linked to the state - killed Joseph Parajasingham, a parliamentarian from the pro-LTTE Tamil National Alliance  in a church in Batticaloa. This was followed in January 2006 by the killings of five Tamil students on the beach in Trincomalee. A new round of extrajudicial killings had begun. This low-intensity conflict, in which paramilitary forces, soldiers in civilian

clothing and sometimes simply criminals are involved, has continued throughout the year. Its characteristics are the brutality of mutual killings, the frequency with which civilians with little apparent connection to the conflict are targeted and the routine failure of any investigations."

After a year of bloodshed the civilians have paid dearly, over a million are depending on depleted supply lines to Jaffna. Approximately 200,000 still remain as refugees, of that more than 30,000 in Vaharai received food only last week after a three week absence.

The peace talks were destined to fail according to ICG report. Both sides  showed reluctance to head into substantive issues and as the situation deteriorated, the truce itself became limited to paper. The ICG said that it was now upto the international community to salvage the situation. Ironically, the same report admitted that Sri Lanka lacks the geo-political power to attract international interest.

"The international community has a key role to play in restraining both sides and pushing for serious discussion of a political settlement. However, rather than engendering a new level of engagement, the resumed fighting has led to frustration, with some donors and key players more reluctant to become involved. Sri Lanka more than ever before needs international engagement that is critical and sustained, focusing above all on immediate human rights and humanitarian concerns but with a longer-term political view that seeks to renew a peace process taking into account the full complexity of the conflict."

Sri Lanka facing the music in UN fora 

Sri Lanka's human rights record is under scrutiny in two UN fora currently in session. The UN Human Rights Council resumed its sittings in Geneva last week and human rights abuses here kept popping up in the discussions. The government for the time being has been successful in staving off a proposal by the European Union till March, but those advocating for interntional participation in monitoring the abuses here kept the pressure up.

The UN Security Council's Working Committee on Children in Armed conflict also was in session in New York  and Sri Lanka was among the countries listed for discussion. "Six country reports are to be examined in 2006 by the Security Council Working Group namely Burundi, Cote D'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Sri Lanka and Nepal. For the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan, recommendations of concrete actions the Security Council can take to protect children have already been made to the Council," the Council said on the session that commenced on November 28 and would end on December 7.

 However, the much-awaited report of  Special Advisor to the UN General Secretary's Special Rapporteur for Children in Armed Conflict Allan Rock is unlikely to be presented to the ongoing sessions. Rock's conclusion at the end of the 10-day trip early last month have opened up can of worms that the government and its allies are trying their best to close up as fast as possible.

UN sources indicated that report was likely to be forwarded to Special Rapportteur Radhika Coomaraswamy in December and thereafter to the working group in January. In the report that has been presented to the on going session, there is no mention on complicity of government troops in recruiting underage children. Rock made the allegation just before departing Colombo and the government has reacted by seeking evidence from the UN. UN sources said that the Colombo office was yet to receive any communication from New York on whether there would a be response to the government before the Rock report is handed in.

Given the attention on the child recruitment and especially Rock's visit, the sessions and their conclusions are likely to set the tone for the near future. "The recommendations of the Security Council Working Group and the follow up action of the parties concerned are crucial," the Council said.

The government has tried to stem the rising tide of criticism on the human rights record by establishing the Special Presidential Commission with interntional observers. The setting up of the Commission, that would investigate 16 cases has been welcomed.

"I am pleased to note that fruitful corporation between the Government (of Sri Lanka) and my office with regard to the initiative and welcome the incorporation of the majority of High Commissioner's suggestions into the terms of reference. I hope the Commission of Inquiry will prove effective in bringing the perpetrators of serious human rights violations to justice," UN Human Rights Commissioner Louis Arbour said at the opening of the sessions. The comments were given wide publicity in the government media here.

But the other side of the story is that while welcoming the commission, Arbour and others have voiced concerns on its limitations and more importantly have not gone silent on calls for interntional human rights monitors.

"There is an urgent need for the international community to monitor the unfolding human rights situation as these are not merely ceasefire violations but grave breaches of international human rights and humanitarian law," she said.

As sessions continued the tone was set. The commission was welcomed but thereafter the criticism flowed.

Vesa Himaanen of the European Union  raised issues on the violators behaving with impunity. Interestingly Philip Alston, UN Secretary General's Special Rapportuer on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions had raised the same concern in October when he remarked - ""The parties feel that they are able to violate human rights and humanitarian law without losing international legitimacy so long as they commit abuses in a manner that permits them maximum deniability. Monitoring could foreclose the strategy of deniability and push the parties to show actual respect rather that simulated respect for human rights."

Sri Lanka's envoy Sarala Fernando  to the Commission was left to fend off questions on government complicity in child recruiting, blocking aid and continuing violations. As seen during the past three months she chose the recently set up Commission as her best defence.

And pressure was mounting on the Council to act on Sri Lanka. US based advocacy group Human Rights Watch, that has been on Sri Lanka's case for awhile wrote the Council before sessions got underway urging action.

"Human Rights Watch is writing to urge you to act at the Third Session of the Human Rights Council to help reverse the worsening human rights situation in Sri Lanka. Specifically, we hope that you and other concerned states will raise Sri Lanka during the session and work with the Sri Lankan government towards establishing a United Nations human rights monitoring mission in Sri Lanka," it said in the letter.

The Rock comments formed the basis of HRW's call for more assertive action in Sri Lanka. The interntional Commission of Jurists also lent its support for calls for wider interntional participation.

"There is little neutral space left in Sri Lanka. Civilians are suffering the human rights and humanitarian consequences of a deepening conflict and unaccountable armed forces on all sides", said the ICJ.

"The Human Rights Council must not turn away. It can and should play a constructive role in helping to prevent and stop the continuing serious violations of human rights and humanitarian law in Sri Lanka and in helping to tackle systemic impunity", it said and blamed both sides for using civilians for political gains.

"The humanitarian crisis is being politicised by both sides to the conflict, with little consideration of the rights of the civilian population", said the ICJ.

"Experience around the world has shown that in such acute situations as in Sri Lanka, a professional, impartial and international human rights field presence can play a significant role in helping to protect lives and create a space in which diplomatic initiatives can take shape", said the ICJ.

"We believe discussions should be stepped up with the Sri Lanka Government about how to establish a suitable human rights operation in the country" it said.

The Council will meet again in March and by then the breathing space the government now has might turn into a suffocation box. Only action in the coming months can stave off more interntional scrutiny.  - Amantha Perera

Urgent need for international HR monitors - UN  

In Sri Lanka conflict has flared up again. In the past six months, the country has descended further into violence with the death toll climbing to include an increasing number of civilians. As the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary killings will report to this session, scores of extrajudicial and political killings, allegedly committed by Government security forces, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and other armed elements, continued. At present, several cases of killings and disappearances are reported each day in the Jaffna area. Since April 2006, some 240,000 people have been newly displaced from their homes, in addition to the hundreds of thousands who were forced to flee during earlier stages of the conflict as well as by the tsunami. Restrictions on humanitarian access have been imposed by both sides, worsening the vulnerability of these populations. The LTTE's persisting record of forced military recruitment, including children, is a major concern.

While LTTE abuses continue on a large scale, human rights violations by State security forces, and the failure of the Government to provide the protection of the rule of law to all its citizens also generate serious concerns. The Government's public commitment to investigate these crimes, including the killings of 17 humanitarian workers of Action Contre la Faim, is welcome. In too many cases, however, investigations have failed to produce results and victims have been denied justice and redress.

There is an urgent need for the international community to monitor the unfolding human rights situation as these are not merely ceasefire violations but grave breaches of international human rights and humanitarian law.

- Louise Arbour, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

Tigers say no to 400 food lorries to Jaffna

By Jamila Najmuddin 

The Tigers last week rejected a fresh proposal by the government to transport 400 lorries carrying 4000 metric tonnes of food and essential items to the north through the A9.

The proposal which was conveyed to the LTTE last week by the SLMM, saw a dead reaction as the Tigers continued to maintain their hardline stance of not negotiating on any issue than that of  opening the A9 permanently.

The proposal to transport the 400 lorries was conveyed to President Mahinda Rajapakse by the Essential Services Commissioner and Department early last week after which it was conveyed to the government Peace Secretariat. The latter had in turn informed the monitors who had conveyed the proposal to the LTTE.

Defence Spokesperson Minister Keheliya Rambukwella told The Sunday Leader that President Rajapakse had also approved to call for international donors and agencies to assist in transporting the lorries to the north and local companies willing to volunteer would also be granted permission. "There are many international donors who are talking about hunger affecting the civilians in the Peninsula. All these groups can now come forward in assisting the government to pressurise the LTTE and transport the lorries to the Peninsula," Minister Rambukwella said.

The Minister added that the Tigers rejection of  the government proposal clearly proved that the LTTE was not concerned about the plight of the civilians and continued to use civilians as human shields. "If they were concerned about the plight of the civilians they would have let the government move the lorries through the A9," said Minister Rambukwella.

The SLMM which conveyed the government proposal to the LTTE last week said that the monitors would continue to hold discussions with both the government and the LTTE till such time sufficient quantities of food was transported to the starving civilians in the Peninsula.

SLMM Spokesperson Thorfinnur Omarsson told The Sunday Leader they would continue to monitor the situation till such time a solution was reached by both parties. "While the government insists on  transporting  food convoys only  through the A9, the LTTE continues to insist for the A9 to be open permanently. A solution has to be sought soon," Omarsson said.

He added that the SLMM had also met LTTE Political Wing Head S.P. Tamilselvan in Killinochchi earlier last week where the Tiger Political Head had maintained a firm position in maintaining that the A9 would not be open for one off convoys. "If the A9 is open, it should be open for all," Tamilselvan had told the monitors during the discussion.

LTTE Spokesperson Daya Master confirmed that the SLMM had verbally conveyed the government proposal to the Tigers. However he said the LTTE had maintained that the A9 should be open for all as they would not grant permission for one off convoys only. "There are half a million people trapped in the Peninsula prison. We cannot open the A9 only for convoys. What about the civilians then?  asked Daya Master.

Minister Keheliya Rambukwella said last week that the government would be willing to open the A9 without conditions if four serious concerns are eased by the LTTE through guarantees from the donor community.

The four proposals according to Minister Rambukwella are that the LTTE should refrain from using civilians as human shields and building bunkers upto the Muhamalai Forward Defence Line, guarantee security to the civilians on the A9, extortion and refrain from training university students to create violence in the Peninsula. "Only if the Tigers and the co-Chairs give us this guarantee will we open the A9. We get no pleasure in keeping the A9 closed," Minister Rambukwella said.

The Tigers had also rejected a similar proposal by the government to allow a one off convoy of supplies to Jaffna three weeks ago. That proposal came straight from President Rajapakse who said that bad weather hampering sea transport and appeals by civic and humanitarian groups had influenced him to make the offer.

The SLMM had come forward to negotiate with the Tigers to reopen the Highway in order to allow the one off convoy through but the Tigers sa