SLA silence stymies UNHCR effort
[TamilNet, Sunday, 28 May 2000, 15:32 GMT]
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) said in a press release issued in Colombo Sunday that it did not receive a response to a request it had made to the Sri Lankan government on May 6 that "military actions be suspended for the period of the LTTE declared cease-fire" on May 27 Saturday, "in the interest of the civilians, who may be moving during that time". The UNHCR had also asked the Sri Lankan government to indicate a safe route to areas held by the army but had got no reply from the Ministry of Defence according to the press release.
The following is the full text of the UNHCR press release:
"In response to numerous queries and requests from the media for classification regarding the situation of civilians in the Thenmarachi area of the Jaffna peninsula, UNHCR Sri Lanka wishes to provide the following information.
"On 26 May, the LTTE informed UNHCR that the LTTE would be declaring a cease-fire for the Thenmarachi area on 27 May from 10.30 a.m to 10.30 p.m to allow civilians trapped by the fighting in the area to move along an identified route into Vanni [the area south of Jaffna peninsula]
"The LTTE requested UNHCR in writing to act as an intermediary with the (Sri Lankan) government to enable the civilians who wish to move to Vanni to do
so in safety.
"On the evening of 26 May, UNHCR conveyed the LTTE's request, both verbally and in writing to the Ministry of Defence and the Joint Operation Headquarters.
"In conveying the request, UNHCR urged that military actions be suspended for the period of the LTTE declared cease-fire, in the interest of the civilians, who may be moving during that time.
"UNHCR also invited the government to indicate a safe route to Government-controlled areas. UNHCR indicated that, if security could be assured, it's staff members would be willing to enter the area to access the conditions of the civilians as well as their willingness to move and to where.
"Up to now no reply has been received from the Ministry of Defence or Joint Operations Headquarters.
"On 27 May, UNHCR staff members in Mallavi, Killinochi reported that 150 persons arrived from the Thenmarachi area after being on the road for several days.
"In interviews with UNHCR staff members, the persons indicated they were fleeing hostilities. There were injured among them. They stated that there were civilians who were killed and injured during military actions over the past two weeks including members of their own families. They are also indicated there are still civilians in the area that want to move away from fighting whenever it is safe to do so.
"On 27 May, UNHCR staff members in Jaffna present at two checkpoints at Mulli and Karaveddy East monitored the movement of civilians out of Thenmarachi Division into the government controlled area of Jaffna. At Mulli, 400 families arrived, and moved on towards Point Pedro. At Karaveddy 60 families arrived. In both locations, the people arriving stated that other civilians were moving out of the area of hostilities. UNHCR staff members at both locations were able to see other persons moving towards the checkpoints.
"In view of these reports UNHCR remains extremely concerned about the safety and security of civilians in the area. UNHCR appeals again to the government and to the LTTE to ensure security for the civilians and their freedom to move to safety"