Colombo directs closure of Northern UN, ICRC offices
[TamilNet, Wednesday, 15 December 2010, 11:45 GMT]
Following directives from Sri Lanka Government authorities to close the branch offices of the United Nation agencies and the International Committtee of Red Cross (ICRC) in the North, these agencies are reducing the number of staff, civil society sources in Jaffna said. UNICEF, UNHCR, UNDP, and WFP offices are said to be affected by the directive from Colombo. A number of offices of the said organizations in Vanni area have already ceased operations. Meanwhile, British Members of Parliament raised concerns on the closure of the ICRC offices in Jaffna.
To a question raised by Siobhain McDonagh, MP, in the British Parliament on the issue of closure of the ICRC, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Alistair Burt, said that the British Government was aware of the impending closure of two offices of the ICRC and added, "[t]he [British] Government have consistently pressed Sri Lanka to live up to its offer of post-conflict reconciliation, but moves such as restricting access to detainees and any restriction of the work of significant non-governmental organisations will make that process rather harder."
The UN organizations and the ICRC have been also operating mobile offices to help the displaced and resettled Tamils in the affected areas. The offices in Ki'linochchi, Mullaiththeevu and Mannaar areas were co-ordinating with the bigger branch offices located in Jaffna and Vavuniyaa.
Civil society sources in Jaffna say that the UN, ICRC offices are likely to cease operations in the North by the end of 2012.
The ICRC Office in Jaffna will likely close in January 2011, according to sources in Jaffna.
The delay in closing the ICRC office in Jaffna is due to the internal disagreements on deciding who to handover the remaining vehicles owned by the ICRC, sources added.
Colombo has been reportedly opposing the ICRC's moves to handover the vehicles to the Sri Lanka Red Cross, and has been insisting that the vehicles be handed over to the Jaffna Government Agent, sources close to the ICRC said.
With drastic cuts in fundings to these organizations, the local NGOs are also suffering severe shortage of funds to carry out humanitarian work, and many local employees losing work is imminent, civil sources in Jaffna added.