'Let them go' say Jaffna protestors

[TamilNet, Thursday, 06 April 2000, 09:14 GMT]
More than eight hundred people staged a sit in protest today in front of the district secretariat of Jaffna town, urging the Sri Lankan government and the international community to guarantee the safety of civilians trapped in the battle zones of the peninsula's southern sector and to let them move out to safer areas.

The sit-in was organised by the People's Council for Peace and Goodwill (PCPG). More than forty NGOs and religious bodies took part in the protest. The government agent and Kachcheri officials could not enter the premises of the secretariat due to the sit-in protest which began around 7 a.m this morning.

Jaffna town SLA commander, Col.Jayatilleke came to the spot and spoke to the protestors. He asked them to make way for the officials so that they could open the Kachcheri. The protestors, however, refused to oblige him.

The sit-in was concluded around 11 a.m. The protestors then went in a procession to the offices of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and handed over memoranda to officials there.

The protestors then returned to the Kachcheri and held a meeting in front of the secretariat. One of the speakers, T.Prabhaharan, president of the Jaffna University Arts Faculty student union, appealed to the government agent to urge the Sri Lankan President to stop using the civilians trapped in Jaffna's war zone as human shields. He said this was against the Geneva Conventions.

The memorandum handed over to the GA by the PCPG says that there are 900 families comprising more than 3500 persons trapped in Maasaar and seven villages in its vicinity and that they are suffering without essentials. And that there are 249 families comprising 1100 persons held up at Kilali by the army. (Maasar is close to the Elephant Pass garrison.)

The memorandum states that despite a letter by the Jaffna security forces commander Maj.Gen. Chula Senevaratne granting permission to these civilians to proceed beyond Kilali to safer areas in the peninsula, army officers in the war zones had declined to let them go.


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