Refugees prevented from leaving Vavuniya
[TamilNet, Tuesday, 16 November 1999, 16:04 GMT]
The Sri Lanka Army in Vavuniya is preventing Tamil civilians living in refugee camps close to SLA camps from leaving the northern town, said the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) in a report submitted to the Sri Lanka President Chandrika Kumaratunge today. In addition no food supplies have been distributed to the displaced since they left, or allowed into the Vanni since November 1, the report said.
The report, which points out the sufferings of residents in the refugee camps and welfare centres in Vavuniya follows a visit to the region by a delegation of political officials yesterday led by Mr.Mavai Senathirajah of the TULF.
Refugees living close to the army camps have not been allowed to move out to safer places and in the event of fierce fighting, these people could be exposed to grave danger and could become victims, the report says.
The report says the Commissioner General of Essential Services, has not hitherto taken action to distribute relief of any kind amongst the displaced people, though it is almost a week since such displacement commenced.
Virtually the entire population of Vavuniya moved to safe areas designated by the Liberation Tigers last week, ahead of a possible offensive against the garrison town.
The Commissioner General of Essential Services has requested both the Government Agent and the Commanding Officer of the armed forces to jointly make a request for such relief, the report says.
But it is most unlikely that the Commanding Officer of the armed forces would make a such request as the Sri Lankan security establishment is endeavouring to persuade the displaced to return to their homes, which in the present situation is not all likely to happen, the TULF report states.
The Voice of Tigers broadcasts continue to request the people who have not vacated to safer places to do so without further delay and in these circumstances, it would not be realistic or reasonable to expect the displaced people to return to their homes immediately or even in the near future, the report says.
The TULF has further asked the President to take direct the armed forces to take all steps to ensure that the civilians in refugee camps and welfare centres are not exposed to danger and to permit all persons who wish to move out to safer areas to do so.
The report states that the official machinery within Vavuniya is so depleted as to be virtually non existent.
The government agent functions with a very limited staff, almost all other government offices are closed, the banks and all business establishments do not function and only 6 doctors out of 30 are working in the Vavuniya hospital, the report said.
It further states that at present only the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) are engaged in some relief work.
Referring to the food situation in the Vanni region, TULF report says, from the information available, the last food convoy to these areas was sent on November 1.
Since a large number of civilians live in the LTTE-held areas, it is essential that sufficient food, medicine and fuel should be sent there with the good offices of the International Committee of Red Cross, the report says.