Civilians in Vanni protest against Colombo's use of humanitarian supplies as tool of war

[TamilNet, Friday, 21 November 2008, 16:07 GMT]
People in Vanni marched in thousands towards two Government Agents' offices and two Divisional Secretariat offices in four locations on Friday protesting against Sri Lanka Government's restrictions on food and essential supplies, blaming Colombo for using humanitarian supplies as a tool of war to force civilians to flee against their will into the hands of Sri Lanka Army (SLA). K. Mahethevan, a representative of Vanni Peoples Welfare Organisation (VPWO), addressing more than 5,000 protesters in front of Ki'linochchi Government Agent's office at Tharmapuram described how the supplies were reduced from 600 lorries per month in 2007 to 250 lorries per month in 2008, but only 54 have allowed to cross into Vanni in the recent days.

Vanni IDPs demonstrate
Demonstration to condemn the Sri Lankan government that denies food supplies to Vanni people

The VPWO, a civil society forum with representatives of various organisations throughout the Vanni, held protests in front of Government Agent's offices at Tharmapuram and Mullaiththeevu and in front of AGA (Divsional Secretary) offices at Puthukkudiyiruppu and Oddichuddaan in Mullaiththeevu district, urging global community's awareness on the humanitarian plight of the civilians in Vanni.

Voice: Slogans by the demonstrators

MP3 AudioDirect Link (mp3)
VPWO's General Secretary Vethavanam, who expressed gratitude to the solidarity shown by the people of Tamil Nadu towards Eezham Tamils, said the ICRC, which was expected by the people of Tamil Nadu and also by their Chief Minister, as a neutral agency to facilitate the supplies itself is now getting restricted itself by the government of Sri Lanka even to operate the Oamanthai crossing.

"The Sri Lankan government is using food as a tool of war against civilians to force them to act against their will," said S. Thuraisingam, the president of the organisation, while addressing the participants at Tharmpuram.

"But, we have a democratic right to urge the global community and also Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa at the same time, to allow unhindered access to humanitarian supplies," he said reminding the participants that the demand is a universally recognised fundamental right.

K. Mahathevan
K. Mahathevan
Voice: Speech by Mr. K. Mahathevan

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Mr. Mahathevan, in his address said: "While the Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa tells India and the world that he was allowing humanitarian supplies to civilians in Vanni, he has instructed his army at Oamanthai to continue an un-announced embargo and block additional lorries. They block essential supplies from petrol and diesel to medicines needed to cure snakebite."

When 80 lorries are forced to wait for 10 days with supplies at the crossing, what would happen to food items that need immediate preservation, he asked.

"In October 2007, 600 lorries were allowed to pass through the crossing, in November it was reduced to 30 lorries, in April 2008 only 400 lorries were allowed, and in June the number became 370. Now it is reduced to 254 lorries, but only 54 lorries have crossed over so far," he said.

S. Vethavanam
S. Vethavanam
Voice: Speech by Mr. Vethavanam

MP3 AudioDirect Link (mp3)
"Now there are many more civilians displaced. The Sri Lankan military occupies the entire district of Mannaar and vast areas of agricultural lands of the other districts, depriving our people to produce their own food."

"Every day, a new item is added to their un-announced list of banned items at Oamanthai," he said.

"The message is you can't eat enough as free people. Even when you eat, you can't add spice," he said with a remark: "Everybody knows you [Colombo government] are fighting puli (Tiger), but are you also fighting pu'li [Tamarind fruit pulp, a spice]."

"Now they don't want to allow trouser-cloth. Do they want us not to wear cloth?," he asked.

The World Food Program (WFP) had decided on 200 grams of rice per person earlier, which means 1.4 kg rice per week per person. But, only 600 grams are provided due to the limited supplies, he noted.

Vanni IDPs demonstrate
"We condemn the Sri Lanka government, which blocks humanitarian supplies to the people of Vanni."

Vanni IDPs demonstrate
More than five-thousand civilians took part in the demonstration at Tharmapuram alone.
Vanni IDPs demonstrate
"We condemn the Sri Lanka government, which blocks humanitarian supplies to the people of Vanni."
Vanni IDPs demonstrate
Women, most of them mothers, took part in the demonstration
Vanni IDPs demonstrate
Text in the placards: Don't make food a weapon of war, Don't block cloths, Don't kill people by blocking medicine
Vanni IDPs demonstrate
Demonstration to condemn the Sri Lankan government that denies food supplies to Vanni people
Vanni IDPs demonstrate
Text in the placard: Don't block fishing
Vanni IDPs demonstrate
People from all walks of life took part in the demonstration in Vanni
Vanni IDPs demonstrate
The march began at 9:30 a.m. and concluded around

Vanni IDPs demonstrate
Participants marched from Number 1 school located near Neththali-aattup-paalam in Tharmapuram towards Ki'linochchi GA's office. More than 5,000 civilains took part forming a 1 km long march


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