The Maori Party has been attacked as "disgusting" for blocking a parliamentary motion yesterday expressing concern about Sri Lankan civilians caught up in fighting between Government forces and the Tamil Tigers.

The party blocked the motion in the name of Progressives leader Jim Anderton because it gave equal weight to the Sri Lankan Government and the Tigers.

The Maori Party is traditionally reluctant to make comments on other countries but issued its own statement "calling for restraint from the Sri Lankan Government in dealing with the last enclave of the Tamil Tigers".

Under Parliament's rules an MP can move a motion on any subject only if there is no objection. Waiariki MP Te Ururoa Flavell loudly objected to Mr Anderton moving his resolution.

Mr Anderton said later the Maori Party had sided with "disgusting humanitarian abuse" and its behaviour was outrageous.

The situation in Sri Lanka was dire and there was little that could be done from New Zealand "but one thing we can do is express support for the civilians caught up in fighting".

Labour associate foreign affairs spokesman Grant Robertson said he was disappointed that the Maori Party blocked the motion.

The party's statement was issued in the name of its foreign affairs spokesman, Hone Harawira. He asked the Government to reinforce the message that the Sri Lankan Government needed to exercise restraint against the Tamil Tigers.