NZ should act on Sri Lankan humanitarian disaster: Greens

New Zealand should urge the Sri Lankan Government to allow aid agencies access to help civilians trapped by fighting in the country’s civil war, says the Green Party.

“Our Government should respond to the disastrous situation in northern Sri Lanka, where at least 250,000 displaced civilians are trapped with little access to food, medicine or shelter,” Green Party Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Keith Locke says.

He says the National-led Government could speak to the Sri Lankan Government via our High Commission in New Delhi, India, register its concerns with the United Nations, and make a public statement on the issue.

“Our Government can also help fund emergency aid to the affected Tamil civilians.

“Today I delivered to Prime Minister John Key’s office an open letter from Tamil Youth New Zealand, which called for the establishment of a safe haven for civilians in northern Sri Lanka. The letter was signed by hundreds of New Zealanders during a 48-hour vigil in Auckland’s Aotea Square.

“I understand the anguish of Tamils in New Zealand, several of whom have learnt of the deaths of family members,” Mr Locke says.

“New Zealand should also be calling for an immediate ceasefire. More bloodshed will only widen the divide between the Sinhalese and Tamil communities.

“As a fellow Commonwealth nation, New Zealand is well-placed to offer its services as a mediator in any negotiations. We could help Norway, which has played a key role in trying to negotiate a peaceful solution in Sri Lanka.

“I am greatly saddened by the war because I visited Sri Lanka in 2003 during the ceasefire when there were great hopes for a peaceful solution. I talked to Government negotiators in Colombo and their counterparts in the Tamil Tiger capital of Ki’linochchi. Tragically, much of Ki’linochchi has now been destroyed and most of its residents displaced.”