29 November, 2009 - Published 17:48 GMT

By P Sivaramakrishnan
BBC Tamil service

World Elders appeal to Mahinda

A group of world leaders have directly appealed to the president of Sri Lanka to protect the rights of the civilians displaced by the recently ended civil war.

The Elders, a group of eminent global leaders, have said that they are “deeply worried” about the humanitarian situation faced by the largely Tamil civilian population who fled their homes during the decades of civil war.

Archbishop reverend Desmond Tutu who has signed the letter on behalf of the elders, in an exclusive interview with the BBC Tamil Service said that displaced Tamil persons be allowed to return as quickly as possible to their homes.

The letter also says that the Sri Lankan government “must ensure” that the rights of the refugees are respected.

Concerned about reconciliation

Aid organisations should be allowed to participate in the return of the refugees said Rev Desmond Tutu.

Rev Desmond Tutu also says that The Elders group are particularly concerned about what is going to happen with regard to reconciliation in Sri Lanka.

“The government has obviously won a military victory, but that is just a beginning” observed Rev Tutu and said that he hoped that the president and his government will take bold actions and be magnanimous.

He also says that they had written to the president expressing their concerns during the conflict urging restraint calling on the government to ensure that the atrocities that they heard about should not be allowed to continue.

Rev Tutu says that the Sri Lankan government generally ignored and violated human rights issues during the war.

Visit to Lanka 'if needed'

The Elders group have also written to aid organisations and governments to use their influence over the Sri Lankan government to be bold and address human rights issues.

Rev Tutu says that they at one time contemplated a visit to Sri Lanka but had to put it off due to certain circumstances.

However “if a visit from the elders would make an important impact then we would consider it very seriously," a delegation going to Sri Lanka.

The Elders group was brought together by Nelson Mandela and includes nobel laureates for peace Jimmy Carter, Martti Athisaari, Aung San Syu Kyi and former secretary general of the UN Kofi Annan among others.