Sweden’s Foreign Minister has been denied entry to Sri Lanka, as thousands of civilians in the country’s war zone begin to receive help from aid agencies.
Tens of thousands of Sri Lankans began donating aid for some 170.000 people displaced in northern Sri Lanka.
As the government launched an appeal for public support to feed those fleeing from the rebel held area, ordinary people and private companies alike responded by donating water, food and clothing.
Television and radio centers set up collection points across the country.
Helicopters delivered some of the aid to civilians trapped in the war zone. Food was also transported by truck convoys.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka refused entry to Sweden’s Foreign Minister.
He was supposed to participate in a mission there with French and British counterparts, but was told he could visit in May instead.
He described the decision as very strange:
[Carl Bildt, Swedish Foreign Minister]:
“The Sri Lankan authorities have suddenly said that they don’t accept me and I have just confirmed with David Miliband and Bernard Kouchner who said they will go anyhow. So it’s very strange behavior (Reporter asking: are you persona non grata?) I am not persona non grata because they say I am welcome any time but I am not intending to take up that invitation.”
On Monday, E.U. foreign ministers welcomed the Sri Lankan government’s announcement of an end to heavy military operations.
But they urged an immediate ceasefire to allow civilians to be evacuated:
[David Milliband, British Foreign Minister]:
“It is imperative that we act for the short term good but also the long term good. In the short term that means providing help for those civilians who remain in the conflict zone but critically getting help to those, up to 200,000 civilians who are outside the conflict zone.”
Checking claims from the battle zone is difficult because independent journalists are denied access.
Tamil Tiger rebels have vowed no surrender in their fight for an independent homeland for Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority, a struggle which began over thirty years ago, and which has cost over 70,000 people their lives.