Thousands have been displaced in a fresh Sri Lankan offensive, reported the Tamilnet website on Thursday.
The head of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam’s (LTTE) political wing, SP Thamilselvan, told the Tamilnet website that the army had amassed military hardware in preparation for a major offensive towards the Mullaitivu area.
‘The consequence of this will be a catastrophic bloodbath across Sri Lanka’, he warned.
Tamilnet added that the Sri Lankan Army (SLA) has launched heavy artillery barrage towards Liberation Tigers’ controlled territories in Batticaloa district since Thursday morning as the Sri Lankan Special Task Force (STF) began a two pronged ground offensive from Chenkalady through A-15 (Batticaloa Badulla Road) and from Pulukunawa and Syambalanduwa.
Around 10,000 civilians were forced to flee from the shelling inside the LTTE territory.
Liberation Tigers said their fighters were engaged in a defensive fight on two fronts.
Two civilians were killed in SLA shelling on Thandiyadi. Access routes were closed on Thursday morning. The wireless telephone link and mobile network remain dead in the district.
The ground offensive from Chenkalady through Koduwamadu, 15 km northwest of Batticaloa, was thwarted, according to LTTE’s Military Spokesman Irasiah Ilanthirayan.
LTTE fighters had seized weapons, ammunitions and recovered the dead body of a Sri Lankan trooper, Mr Ilanthirayan further said.
Meanwhile, another STF ground movement was launched from the southwest, into LTTE territory from Pulukunawa and Siambalanduwa.
The Sri Lanka Army was firing artillery shells from the Valaichenai SLA base, Kommathurai SLA camp and 23-3 Brigade Commanding base of the Sri Lankan Army, located near the Weber stadium in Batticaloa city, according to the reports from the SLA controlled areas in Batticaloa.
Access routes to the LTTE controlled area via Ampilanthurai and Manmunai remained closed on Thursday morning.
Meanwhile, Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Parliamentarians have urged the Australian and Indonesian governments, in a press communiqué released on Wednesday, not to send back the 85 Tamils intercepted by the Australian Navy in the Australian Sea on 22 February.
The parliamentarians cite that if they were sent back their lives will be in danger from the Sri Lankan armed forces and collaborating paramilitary groups.
The press communiqué is as follows:
‘The Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) is trying to get the 85 Tamils intercepted by the Australian Navy back to Sri Lanka.
‘We fear if they were sent back according to the request, all of them would be either kidnapped and tortured or killed by the Sri Lankan armed forces and their allied paramilitary groups.
‘Rasenthiran Ilangchelvan of No 23, Kandy Road, Nunavil, Chavakachcheri, who fled Sri Lanka in 2002, applied for asylum in France in May 2002 and was sent back to Sri Lanka on 31.08.2005, after his request was turned down.
‘On 28.02.2007, some Sri Lankan army soldiers and EPDP paramilitary members went to his house around 5:30am and shot him dead.
‘As such, we request both Australian and Indonesian governments not to send back the 85 Tamils to Sri Lanka.
‘The Sri Lankan armed forces and paramilitaries are involved in the human rights violations against the Tamil people.
‘The reintroduced Emergency Regulations and the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) give them excessive powers to arrest the Tamil people illegally, torture them, abduct them, kill them and rape the women.
‘The government systematically killed journalists, Human Rights Commission officials, human rights activists and Parliamentarians who voice against these atrocities.
‘1,527 Tamils were killed and 697 disappeared in five years from 22.02.2002 to 28.02.2007 even though the Cease Fire Agreement has been in force.
‘In addition, hundreds of others are being arrested and imprisoned.
‘In February 2007 alone, 66 people were killed and 62 others were abducted.
‘The International Juries Association accuse that the PTA paves the way for many human rights violations.
‘Meanwhile, the International Legal Experts Association told that the GoSL is involved in human rights violations using the PTA.
‘Patients arrested under the PTA have little chance for obtaining legal support. As a result, they are being kept in prisons for many months without either being produced in the courts or provided with charge sheets.
‘If the 85 Tamils were sent back in this context, they would be definitely affected.’
Only recently Amnesty International raised concerns about a crackdown on press freedom in Sri Lanka.
This followed the detention on Monday 26 February of 40-year-old Dushyantha Basnayake, Director of Sinhala newspaper Mawbima, by officials from Sri Lanka’s Terrorist Investigation Division (TID).
Another journalist from the same newspaper, Munusamy Parameshawary, has been held without charge by the TID for the last three months.
Amnesty International has also received reports of many other journalists being detained and receiving death threats.
All the journalists detained are being held incommunicado and are at risk of torture or ill-treatment.
Dushyantha Basnayake was reportedly detained under anti-terrorism laws after being questioned in his office by TID officials.
These laws allow for people to be held incommunicado for up to three months.
It is thought his detention may be connected to recent articles published in Mawbima about human rights violations in Sri Lanka.
Mawbima has carried articles that criticised President Mahinda Rajapakse’s support for a military solution to the ongoing conflict between government security forces and the armed group, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
Munusamy Parameshawary, also a journalist for Mawbima, has been detained under anti-terrorism laws since 22 November 2006, on suspicion of having links with the LTTE.
She had written articles concerning the alleged perpetration of ‘disappearances’ by security force personnel.
She has not been charged with any offence. For the first month of her detention, she was denied access to lawyers, and all journalists, including the editor of Mawbima.
Amnesty International is now seriously concerned about the crackdown on press freedom in Sri Lanka.
The ‘disappearance’ of journalist Subramaniam Ramachandran on February 15, is an example of acts of violence and intimidation against journalists and human rights activists taking place in areas controlled by the Sri Lankan government.
There seems to be complete impunity for harassment and detention of journalists.
There have been recent reports of a number of people ‘disappearing’ or being abducted by the security forces or armed groups.
Such people are often called or taken in ‘for questioning’ and held incommunicado.
No receipts or records of their detention are made available and the official mechanisms for reporting such events, such as through the National Human Rights Commission, are often unable to locate the missing people.
Amnesty International has issued an urgent appeal to its members who are writing to the Sri Lankan authorities calling on them to ensure no journalist in detention is tortured or ill-treated, and to release them immediately and unconditionally unless they are charged with a criminal offence.