28 January, 2009 - Published 18:31 GMT
By Saroj Pathirana
BBC Sinhala service
Sri Lanka should go for a political solution that safeguard the rights of the Tamil community, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband has said.
Both Mr. Miliband and his deputy, Lord Mark Malloch-Brown reiterated British government’s serious concerns of the plight of the civilians caught in the conflict in Sri Lanka’s north.
“We are calling for every right of the Tamil people; political, cultural and religious rights are respected. We are serious in our attempts. We also call for open access for journalists. But first step is to stop killings. We will use every possible tool available to us to stop killings,” Mr. Miliband said.
Addressing a Tamil diaspora group meeting jointly organised by All Party Sri Lanka Parliamentary Group and British Tamil Forum (BTF) in Westminster parliament on Tuesday evening, the ministers rejected accusations by the BTF that Britain has failed to act against "genocide" in Sri Lanka.
Describing the situation in Sri Lanka as "a humanitarian crisis" Mr. Miliband said UK "condemns the loss of every civilian's life".
The atmosphere in the packed committee room was tense as the BTF members were not happy with ministers' explanations.
BTF took no efforts to hold back their support for Tamil Tiger rebels and only accused the Sri Lankan government of carrying out attacks against civilians.
However, the United Nations, Amnesty International and Sri Lanka government have accused the LTTE of not allowing civilians under their control to flee fighting.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, Amnesty International has accused both parites to the conflict of "violating the laws of war by targeting civilians and preventing them from escaping to safety".
In a letter sent to President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Monday, Bishop of Jaffna Rt. Rev. Dr. Thomas Savundaranayagam called on LTTE not to hide among the civilians.
Call for a truce
“We are urgently requesting the Tamil Tigers not to station themselves among the people in the safety zone and fire their artillery – shells and rockets at the army. This will only increase more and more the death of civilians thus endangering the safety of the people,” the Bishop was quoted by the Presidential Secretariat.
The British ministers were of the opinion that none of the parties have indicated their willingness for a truce to be implemented which was denied by the BTF.
Accusing the British government of failing to take decisive action, BTF spokesman, Suren Surendiran, said the LTTE has already called for a ceasefire.
BBC’s Chris Morris who visited Mullaitivu on a conducted tour by the Sri Lanka army says the LTTE is trying to obtain a ceasefire arranged through international community to “avoid complete defeat in the battlefield”.
Mr Miliband stressed that Prime Minister Gordon Brown has already called for a ceasefire in Sri Lanka.
Answering a question by Keith Vaz, MP, Mr. Brown told British parliament on 14 January that he will discuss the Sri Lankan situation with other European leaders.
“I also agree with him (Mr. Vaz) about the need for a ceasefire. I will be talking to President Sarkozy and Chancellor Merkel, and that will be one of the issues that I will raise with them,” Mr. Brown has said.
The BTF leaders and many in the gathering accused Sri Lanka government of deliberately attacking the civilians. However, there were no accusations against the LTTE.
Although the British government is calling for an ending to killings, Lord Malloch-Brown said there is a limit for a foreign government to act as the situation in Sri Lanka is ‘an internal conflict’.
He said it is unfair to accuse Britain of condoning the killings in Sri Lanka.
“Norway has already attempted and failed as well as India and many other countries to help solve the issue. We have also tried through the tools available to us,” Lord Malloch- Brown said.