ICRC reaffirms commitment to ferry service

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 16 February 1999, 22:13 GMT]
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is prepared to provide security for the ship that takes civilian passengers to and from Trincomalee and Kankesanthurai, if the government and the Liberation Tigers agree.

"We cannot force either party to accept our services in this regard" said the new head of the sub-delegation of the ICRC, eastern province, at a press briefing held today in Batticaloa.

The Sri Lankan Navy refused to grant to permission to a private shipping firm that wished to launch a ferry service between the peninsula and Trincomalee, last week, despite an agreement signed by the ICRC with the North-east province governor and the Commisioner of General and Essential Services.

According to the agreement signed by the three parties two months ago, two representatives of the International Committee of Red Cross would accompany the civilian passengers in the ship chartered by the private firm.

The agreement stated that no army personnel, military equipment and other cargo for the security establishments would be taken in that vessel with the civilians, said sources.

Mr.Christoph Hartmann met journalists at the Batticaloa office of the ICRC, and outlined the proposed activities of the organisation to be undertaken in the eastern province this year.

The main task of the ICRC was to protect the civilians from the armed groups, he added.

The ICRC facilitated the implementation of the North East Emergency Irrigated Agricultural Program which is funded by the World Bank and the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations.

A two year plan had been formulated to solve the drinking water problem in the east with financial assistance provided by the Austrian Red Cross.

Action has already been taken to sink fifty new wells and forty six tube wells at a cost of 700,000 American Dollars, said Mr.Hartmann.

The ICRC has organised several mobile medical clinics in the east. In the Batticaloa district mobile medical clinics are conducted five days a week in areas not controlled by the Sri Lanka Army, journalists were told.


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