rebels say Sri Lanka's military has renewed shelling Tuesday of the only
remaining combat zone. The top government doctor in the rebel-controlled
territory says at least 45 patients died when a mortar hit the admissions ward
of the only remaining medical facility there. The military has repeatedly denied
using heavy artillery to try to protect tens of thousands of civilians trapped
with the rebels. It says three divisions continue advancing to rescue all the
civilians in the final phase of the offensive to defeat the rebels in the sliver
of coastal land they still hold. A senior opposition politician contends the
Sinhalese-dominated military is deliberately targeting ethnic Tamils.
Lanka's government says the impending battlefield defeat of the Tamil Tigers,
regarded as a terrorist organization, will bring national reunification and
return democracy to the Tamil-dominated north.
An opposition member of
parliament, representing the northern Jaffna district, sees only more trouble
ahead, because the government is failing to win Tamil hearts and minds.
In a VOA interview, Suresh Premachandran, of the Tamil National
Alliance, blamed the military for civilian deaths during this year's offensive
to retake the north and wipe out the rebels.
"Within five months, more
than 10,000 killed and 20,000 injured," he said. "Definitely it's a genocide.
Definitely the international community is having the duty to stop
Top Army commanders contend troops have not killed a single civilian
during their offensive.
Government medical workers in the combat zone
report hundreds - and possibly thousands - of civilian casualties in recent
The TNA's Premachandran blames the military for this latest
artillery barrage and predicts more Tamil deaths.
"Definitely they are
the people who are shelling and if they are going ahead with this sort of
slaughtering, definitely within another two or three days time another few
thousand are going to get killed," he said.
Government leaders accuse
the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam of firing artillery, killing civilians and
then blaming the military.
Premachandran says the LTTE has been fighting
for a "just cause," but acknowledges the rebels - condemned for their urban
suicide bombings and political assassinations - have committed "excesses."
The TNA has 22 members in parliament, representing the Tamil north and
east. Premachandran says he and his party believe in negotiations and the
political process to settle the Tamil question in the island nation.
But Premachandran says he has grown increasingly impatient with the
political climate, describing the reaction when he and other Tamil politicians
speak in parliament.
"Immediately all the people who are in
the ruling party start to shout, 'You LTTE bugger' and things like that. They
are not prepared to listen to us. They are not prepared to discuss matters with
us," he added. "If [an opposition member of parliament] speaks the truth, if he
criticizes the undemocratic matters happening in this country, immediately he
will be called as an LTTE'er."
Premachandran says such accusations have
a chilling effect. Three of his fellow TNA members of parliament have been
The office of President Mahinda Rajapaksa says it is
reaching out to Tamil parties to rebuild civil society in the north.
Tamil National Alliance says it is boycotting such meetings with the government
until it shows sincerity in discussing a ceasefire with the LTTE and accepts a