A Statement by the Rt Revd Duleep de Chickera, Bishop of Colombo
The Church of Ceylon (E-P) – Ceylon People of conscience are perturbed that the current war in the LTTE occupied Vanni places the majority of civilians at tremendous risk. Unarmed and trapped in this war zone, large numbers of civilians, including children, are caught in the intense cross-fire of a deadly armed confrontation. Thousands are already displaced and can flee only to places of temporary safety.
The situation faced by these civilians is even more desperate since they cannot act independently. They are under conflicting pressure from both sides to support their respective strategies of movement and fear reprisals if they do not. Their dilemma adds to their suffering.
Since both the GOSL and the LTTE claim they are in this war for the liberation of these very civilians, it is imperative that they jointly invite and assist the ICRC and UNHCR to set up peace corridors and peace zones for the safety of civilians. My Roman Catholic colleague, the Rt Revd Thomas Savundaranayagam, Bishop of Jaffna, has already made this suggestion and it needs to be reiterated. If for some reason these agencies are unable to intervene, then an inter-religious group of leaders must be invited to do so.
The Government’s assurance that food, infant milk powder, medicine and other essential commodities are being supplied to the people of this region is to be commended. This process must be monitored by a senior Cabinet Minister in collaboration with the civil administration in the Vanni. It will also require facilitation by the military if it is to function smoothly in the circumstances of the war.
The Rt Revd Duleep de Chickera
Bishop of Colombo