Aid workers protest SLA pressure

[TamilNet, Saturday, 13 November 1999, 19:58 GMT]
The Sri Lanka Army (SLA) in Vavuniya is pressuring civilians to return to the northern garrison town, said aid workers in Colombo today. The new SLA town commander has been applying severe pressure on aid agencies to support the SLA’s efforts, the aid workers said.

Almost the entire population of Vavuniya moved out over Wednesday and Thursday following radio broadcasts by the Liberation Tigers requesting civilians to relocate to designated safe areas as the town might come under attack at any time.

Residents began moving out on Wednesday, and by Thursday the town was deserted except for Sri Lankan troops and military trained policemen on patrol.

Aid workers say the SLA is now preventing them from delivering humanitarian supplies and food to many thousands of civilians who are living exposed to the weather.

They said their efforts to assist those civilians who moved in large numbers into the safe areas are also being criticised by SLA commanders who say the relief workers should instead focus on persuading the refugees to return.

The Sri Lanka Army has been pouring troops and equipment into Vavuniya ahead of an expected LTTE offensive against the town.

The LTTE said in a press release shortly after overrunning a series of towns in the eastern and central Vanni in a major offensive that Vavuniya was also “exposed”.

The aid workers said as much as they would like to see people resettled in their homes, they were aware there was a possibility of heavy fighting in the town.


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