2nd lead:

Sri Lanka Armed Forces take over refuges, harass TRO

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 05 January 2005, 07:30 GMT]
In a sudden move, the Sri Lankan Armed Forces are manning the refugee camps in Amparai, Batticaloa and Trincomalee since Tuesday. The Special Task Force (STF) in Thirukovil, Amparai have hijacked two tractors of TRO relief supplies and distributed them after removing the TRO labels. "The Sri Lanka Army (SLA) and Special Task Force (STF) have stepped up their harassment of workers of the Tamils Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO)", Mr.K.P.Reggie, Executive Director of the TRO, told TamilNet on Wednesday. The TRO has called for an urgent Press Conference today at 6pm at its Colombo office.

TRO Reggie
Mr.Reggie, Executive Director of Tamils Rehabilitation Organization (TRO)
While goods sent to the East continue to be stopped at checkpoints and delayed, TRO workers are also being harassed in Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Amparai, Mr. K. P. Reggie, the Executive Director of TRO, told TamilNet Wednesday.

Mr. Reggie cited an incident in Thirukovil, Amparai, where two tractors carrying TRO relief products and vegetables were seized by the local STF.

“This happened yesterday, and the STF soldiers then proceeded to distribute the goods themselves, after they had removed the TRO labels,” he said.

“TRO workers in Batticaloa and Amparai continue to be harassed by the SLA and STF,” he said. “In Batticaloa town, a TRO volunteer was assaulted by the military yesterday.”

“The TRO supports over 90 refugee camps on Amparai alone, with over 400 TRO workers and volunteers working in the region. We fear for the safety of those who work with us if this continues. And it has an adverse impact on the assistance we are able to provide,” he said.

“The bureaucratic hurdles are also tremendous,” said Mr. Reggie. “After one of our trucks was stopped at a checkpoint on December 28, we requested that relief materials be allowed through quickly, but that is still not happening.”

He explained that every consignment of relief aid gets stopped at the checkpoints. The driver then calls the TRO office in Colombo, who have to contact the local Government Agent, the Sri Lanka Peace Secretariat, the Sri Lanka Government appointed Relief Coordination Officer and the military contact provided by the SLA in order to get the consignment released.

“One lorry in Ottumavadi, Batticaloa, was held up yesterday for 10 hours, and only released after the GA got personally involved,” he added.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka President Chandrika Kumaratunga Tuesday appointed senior officers of the SLA to coordinate the relief efforts in their respective districts. Sri Lanka’s The Joint Operations Headquarters (JOH) issued a press release Tuesday saying that the District Coordinating Officers of the Armed Forces would “co-ordinate all ongoing Relief and Rehabilitation work in respective districts.”

 

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