"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," states the Bishop of Jaffna Rt. Rev. Dr. Thomas Savundaranayagam in a letter to President Mahinda Rajapaksa calling for the extension of the Safety Zone for civilians in the Mullaitivu District.
The Bishop's letter expresses gratitude to the President for his concern for the civilians who have taken refuge in Vanni in the ongoing military operations and thanks the President for declaring a part of the west of the Mullaitivu at the safety zone for civilians.
The Bishop states that the area thus set apart is small considering the large number of people congregating there and requests that it be extended. He requests that areas such as Mathalan, Valaiayarmadam, Mulivaikal, Iranaipalai and the eastern sector of Puthukudiyiruppu be also declared safety zones. He adds that the only motive in requesting the extension of the safety zone is to preserve as much as possible the lives of the civilians in these areas.
'We are not against the war but our priority is the safety of every innocent civilian in those areas of war," the letter states.
Here is the text of the letter by Bishop Savundaranayagam of 25.01.2009.
"We are very grateful to you for your concern for the civilians who have taken refuge in Vanni in the on-going War. We thank you sincerely for declaring a part of the west of Mullaitivu as safety one. The area indicated is small and uninhabitable considering the large number of the people who are congregating in this area. Some of the Priests and the Sisters who are with the displaced people have informed me that they are with the people who have assembled in the Churches which are in the Eastern part of Mullaitivu (Mathalan, Valiayarmadam, Mulivaikal, Iranapalai and eastern sector of Puthukudiyiruppu). I have requested to treat them also as safety areas for the thousands of people gathered in these places and thus assuring the safety of the priests and religious also. As the Bishop responsible for these areas they have made this urgent request to me. The G.A. of Mullaitivu also has made at this proposal to the ICRC requesting them to explore the possibility of declaring the above areas as safety zone with the permission of SL Security Forces.
Our only motive in requesting your Excellency for the extension of the safety zone is to preserve as much as possible the lives of the civilians in these areas. My Priests and Sisters have told me that they will not abandon the people but move along wherever the people are going. Having lived with them always and suffering with them. They will not leave them at this time of crisis. This has been forever the do of the wide-ranging priests, to be in the middle of the people even in the time of hazard.
We are also urgently requesting the Tamil Tigers not to station themselves among the people in the safety zone and fire their weaponry-shells and rockets at the Army. This will only add to more and more the bereavement of civilians thus endangering the security of the people. I insist that both parties must watch the safety region strictly.
Therefore, I am insistent with your Excellency to think declaring the western piece of Mullaitivu also a safety area for the sake of the blameless civilians.
We are not against the war but our main concern is the security of every blameless civilian in those areas of war." (PRIU).
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