Tamil Bishops urge peace talks
[TamilNet, Thursday, 23 September 1999, 13:27 GMT]
The Bishop of the Batticaloa-Trincomalee diocese Rt.Rev. Kingsley Swampillai who returned yesterday after a visit to the Vanni said that the Liberation Tigers denied reports that they were responsible for the massacre of Sinhala civilians in the Ampara district on September 18. The Bishops of the Tamil dioceses of Sri Lanka, Rt.Rev.Thomas Savundaranayagam (Jaffna), Rt.Rev.Rayappu Joseph (Mannar) and Rt.Rev. Swampillai (Batticaloa-Trincomalee) went to the Vanni on Monday Sept.20.
Bishop Swampillai said that they had visited the Puthukkudiyiruppu hospital where 28 civilians who were wounded when the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) bombed a busy market place in the small town on Sept.15 are being treated. The Three Bishops had inspected the area that was destroyed and damaged by the SLAF bombing and had consoled the kith and kin of the victims.
The Batticaloa-Trincomalee Bishop said that the situation was quite tragic as the people killed and wounded by the SLAF attack were refugees who have been on the move due to the war since 1995. The medical officers and nurses at the Puthukkudiyiruppu hospital are facing many difficulties in caring for the wounded due to shortages of drugs and medicine according to Bishop Swampillai. He said that the severe restrictions imposed by the army on travelling to and from the Vanni have hampered the hospital's efforts to send the wounded who are in need of urgent treatment to the Vavuniya hospital. The Bishop noted that the SLAF had bombed on the weekly market day when hundreds of people throng to the area and that people in the Vanni are facing severe food and water shortages now.
The Liberation Tigers, including Thamilchelvan, the leader of the organisation's political wing, had met the Bishops during the visit. The Tigers, according to Rt.Rev. Swampillai, had denied any involvement in the killing of Sinhala civilians in Ampara on Sept. 18. The Bishops had also discussed the need for bringing about an end to the conflict in view of the people's sufferings. The Tigers had said that they were prepared for talks and that it was up to the government to send the "peace signal". The Tigers had told the Bishops that the right atmosphere for peace talks has to be brought about. The Bishops had also raised several issues with the LTTE such as the blasting of transformers in places controlled by the Sri Lanka army. Bishop Swampillai said that they discussed some technical matters too with the Tigers, but declined to elaborate. The Bishops will fax a letter to the Sri Lankan President about their Vanni visit this evening.