Sri Lanka in state of civil war: Caritas chief

Sri Lanka is in a state of civil war and facing a major humanitarian crisis, the head of Caritas Australia says, in the latest call for a ceasefire and the establishment of an international emergency committee to look for solutions to the violence.

The conflict between Sri Lankan Government forces and the rebel group Tamil Tigers has escalated over recent months, threatening grave implications for the Sri Lankan people, according to a Caritas statement.

"There is a major humanitarian emergency taking place [in Sri Lanka] and the international community needs to refocus its attention here before this conflict destabilises the region," Caritas CEO Jack de Groot said.

Caritas has called for "three specific actions to promote a sustainable peace".

"Firstly we need a cessation of hostilities, in particular the negotiation of a ceasefire and the establishment of a multilateral emergency committee that would look for solutions to the violence", Mr de Groot said.

"Secondly, parties breaching the Oslo accord must comply with its recommendations and take responsibility for their actions.

"Thirdly we need independent investigation and prosecution of human rights abuses and international overseers to ensure legitimacy", said Mr de Groot.

The Caritas statement also expressed support for the "key role that Australia is playing in the Sri Lankan Bilateral Donor Mission instigated in mid-October".

Heads of Missions involved include the European Union, UK, Swedish, Canada, USAID, Japan, Norway, Australia and the Italians amongst others. Its role is to negotiate with the Sri Lankan leadership and also is able to travel to parts of the country that remain closed.

Following an appeal by the local Catholic Bishop last week, the Sri Lankan Government temporarily reopened the road linking the northern city of Jaffna to the rest of the country to allow humanitarian aid for 500,000 civilians to arrive by land instead of sea.

The renewed conflict has also stalled much of Caritas Australia's tsunami relief work.

In April two Caritas workers in Jaffna were killed, along with five government soldiers, when a claymore mine attached to a bicycle detonated as their vehicle passed a Sri Lanka Army truck travelling in the opposite direction.

Sri Lanka in state of civil war (Caritas Australia Media Release, 27/11/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Caritas Australia
Bishop Thomas Savundaranayagam (Catholic-Hierarchy)

Sri Lanka reopens road to avoid starvation (CathNews, 21/11/06)
Sri Lankan priest disappears as civilian toll mounts (CathNews, 25/8/06)
Sri Lanka ceasefire in tatters (CathNews, 11/8/06)
Caritas calls for pressure as Sri Lankan church bombed, schoolgirls killed (CathNews, 17/8/06)
Troops storm Church as Sri Lanka on brink of war (CathNews, 19/6/06)
Caritas calls for urgent mediation in Sri Lanka (CathNews, 27/4/06)

Project Compassion 2007: Fair Play Today (Caritas Australia, Media Release, 21/11/06)

28 Nov 2006