03/09/2007, 00.00
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Women appeal for peace, 14,000 civilians flee the east

by Melani Manel Perera
International Women’s Day was held amid great concern in Sri Lanka. No celebration till peace is what many women say. Meanwhile thousands of civilians flee the Batticaloa area as warring sides get ready to fight.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – Women in Sri Lanka who marked International Women’s Day yesterday were opposed to any celebration because the atmosphere was not festive but rather one of a conflict still seeking a solution.

Yesterday in fact some 14,000 civilians fled the Batticaloa area in the east where army troops have massed for an offensive against Tamil rebels. According to local sources, residents fear they might used as a human shield by the warring parties. And fighting is expected to be intense over the next few days with the army poised to attack separatists in the Thoppigala area.

We do not feel like celebrating International Women’s Day today,” S.K.B. Rajakaruna told AsiaNews. “We might enjoy or celebrate Women’s day, but only when there is peace. We should encourage our President to solve this conflict soon with a fair and fine solution,” said the woman public servant.

Sriyani Fernando, co-ordinator of the Sri Vimukthi Women’s group in Negombo, shares that view. “We must force our government to reach true peace in the country. [President] Rajapakse has the power and the duty of doing so for the good of the population.”

In the last 15 months the civil war that broke out in 1983 has caused the death of at least 4,000 people. A truce signed in 2002 has never been respected.

According to Sri Lanka’s Human Rights Commission, there have been at least 100 abductions and disappearances since the beginning of the year, mostly in Colombo, Batticaloa and Jaffna. 

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