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International community must act to protect civilians: New Zealan
International community must act to protect civilians: New Zealand Labour Party [ Thursday, 12 February 2009, 10:06.47 AM GMT +05:30 ] The international community must come together to put pressure on both sides of the Sri Lankan conflict to stop the killing of innocent civilians, Grant Robertson, New Zealand's Labour Associate Foreign Affairs Spokesperson said. "In recent days we have further reports of hundreds of civilians being killed as a result of indiscriminate shelling in Northern Sri Lanka. We have also seen a suicide bombing that has resulted in more than 30 deaths. "This is unacceptable and both sides need to allow for a secure, safe haven to operate so that civilians can escape the fighting." Grant Robertson said on his website.
"I am pleased that the National Government finally made a statement about the conflict last week. However, now is the time for action from the government, to join with the rest of the international community to help avert the growing humanitarian crisis. A ceasefire is needed, and a secure safe haven with international verification needs to be created. "
The United Nations and other relief agencies continue to have difficulty reaching those most in need because of the fighting. The UN believes up to 150,000 people may attempt to move from the conflict area in coming days. Up to 250,000 civilians in Northern Sri Lanka are trapped by the fighting."It is vital that the situation can be clearly monitored and verified so that there is confidence for civilians that they can safely move from the conflict area. Both sides in this conflict must respect international humanitarian law. " The Sri Lankan government is restricting the ability of aid agencies and media to report from the conflict area, which is contributing to the crisis.
"It is disturbing that the BBC World Service has now announced it is suspending its broadcasts because of interference and blocking of broadcasts by Sri Lankan authorities. This appears to be part of a wider attempt to limit proper monitoring of the crisis. There needs to be an open and transparent approach taken so that aid agencies and media can do their jobs," Grant Robertson said.