IDPs urge foreign aid workers not to leave Vanni, block convoy

[TamilNet, Friday, 12 September 2008, 16:50 GMT]
Internally Displaced Persons, who gathered Friday morning in front of the UNHCR office at Karadippoakku junction in Ki'linochchi, pleaded with the remaining officials of the UN and International NGOs not to leave Ki'linochchi as their presence was critical, not only for humanitarian assistance, but also to sustain a secure zone to escape. They said they feared that in the coming days Sri Lanka military will employ Colombo’s scorched earth policy to destroy key Vanni towns using aerial and artillery bombardment. Meanwhile, a group of IDPs blocked the convoy of NGO vehicles in a peaceful protest from 6:00 a.m, forcing the NGOs to abandon their trip on Friday.

IDPs protest in Vanni
IDPs block NGO and UN vehicles from leaving Vanni


IDPs protest in Vanni
Veluppillai Sivasubramaniyam who displaced from Iluppaikkadavai
IDPs protest in Vanni
Ms. Anpu Santhirasekaran, displaced from Jaffna in 1990 and living in Vanni
IDPs protest in Vanni
IDPs protest in Vanni
IDPs in front of UNHCR office at Karadippoakku junction
IDPs protest in Vanni
Characterizing the Sri Lankan pressure on the INGOs and UN agencies to vacate Vanni as a prelude to staging military offensives to bring under control additional areas around Ki'linochchi, an operation that is likely to result in heavy human toll and significant destruction to property and infrastructure, a group of IDPs staged a protest blocking the convoy of INGO and UN vehicles from leaving Ki'inochchi on Friday at 55th Mile Post where a store of the World Food Programme (WFP) is located..

TamilNet correspondent who visited the scene reported that the UNHCR and NGO officials told the IDP protesters that they were forced to withdraw their presence due to security concerns, and that there was simply nothing more they could do, other than alerting their hierarchy of their protest.

The IDPs who gathered in front of the UNHCR office had been displaced several times and they were from Mannaar, Vadamaaradchi East, Poonakari (Pooneryn), Nedunkea'ni, Northern Vavuniyaa, and from other areas of Vanni mainland.

A displaced teacher from Mannaar mainland said the children were especially affected by the news of NGOs and UN organistions leaving Vanni. "This has become a theme for discussion in the classrooms. The children had a secure feeling that they were in a protected environment by seeing NGO vehicles moving around in the streets of Ki'iinochchi. That is why we preferred to move towards Ki'linochchi," she said. When our settlements, hospitals, schools and places of worship get bombed, the UN agencies such as UNICEF witness the casualties and damage. Who will be there in future to witness our plight in future, she asked.

One of the IDPs, K. Lingam from Jaffna, who was trying to talk to the UNHCR officials, told media that people were terrorised by the indiscriminate bombardment, and feared SLA blockade of supplies.

"We are at a critical stage. We can't live with dignity in SLA controlled areas. If you are forced to leave us at all at this juncture, at least recognise our fundamental right to live in our land with dignity," was his message to the officials who were to prepare for leaving Vanni.

Arbitrary executions, enforced disappearances, abduction, unacknowledged detention and other forms of violence against Tamils from NorthEast are widely reported in Sri Lanka Army controlled areas that the IDPs do not consider moving into SLA demarkated areas as a viable option, civil society sources in Vanni said..

Velupillai Sivasubramaniam, 48, father of five, an IDP from Iluppaikkadavai, who was displaced with his family, unable to take with their belongings, said he received no help from any organisations so far, despite he displaced at least four times, to Muzhangkaavil, Vanneari, Koa'naavil and now to Uruththirapuram, each time when artillery shells fired by the SLA reached their place of stay.

When asked why he was protesting while complaining that no organisations helped him , he said there was help although it didn't reach all, and said: "more than anything, the NGOs’ presence in our soil gives us a feeling of security that we are not left alone by the global community, as a forgotten people, to face a genocide; this is very important for us to keep our hopes alive, and to maintain faith that situation will change."

Ms. Santhiraseakaram Anpu, who displaced from Kadduvan in Jaffna in 1990 due to SLA offensive, said she has been displaced several times,, has lost her husband and daughter, and was not prepared to move towards SLA controlled areas. Her native village has been turned into High Security Zone. She said she feared that the Sri Lankan military would be indiscriminaely bomb the population centers in Vanni after aid workers leave the area.

IDPs protest in Vanni
IDPs block NGO vehicles from leaving Vanni at 55th Mile Post in front of WFP store in Ki'linochchi


IDPs protest in Vanni
IDPs protest in Vanni


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