Residents express apprehension

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 17 March 1999, 19:28 GMT]
Residents of Iranai Iluppaikulam, which was captured by the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) recently, told journalists who visited the area yesterday that they are afraid that "disappearances" will occur as the SLA continues screening for Tiger suspects.

They told journalists that Mr. Ganesaratnam of Puthukkulam and a mentally disabled youth have been reported missing since March 10.

They also said that the SLA has been entering the refugee camps at unusual hours in the night for security checks and that they fear for the safety of the young girls and women.

Tamil children peep at journalists near Iranai Iluppaikulam, a town in the northern Vanni region which was captured by the Sri Lankan Army during a recent operation. The Government allowed journalists a rare glimpse of the northern battlefield Tuesday to show off the military's recent gains. photo-Reuters
The people were speaking to the journalists who were taken to visit the area by officials of the Sri Lankan Ministry of Defence yesterday.

The residents also told that only farmers over 40 are allowed to go to harvest their paddy in the areas near or outside the SLA defence lines.

The army has instructed farmers who go to the fields that they should return before dark and no one is allowed to stay in the field even while they are thrashing the harvested paddy.

"About 1800 acres of paddy fields are without proper care and night watch" they said, adding that the harvest was at risk from wild elephants in the area.

They have told the journalists that the labourers who go for work in paddy fields and worry something may happen to their teenage children who stay behind in the camps.

"Our family card which was provided by the government officials earlier and the national identity cards are the thread by which our lives hang. Without them we cannot get our essentials, relief assistance and also cannot move about in the area", one resident said.

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