SLA accused of using civilians as human shields
[TamilNet, Saturday, 02 December 2000, 14:22 GMT]
Residents of Jaffna accused Sri Lankan Army (SLA) of transporting civilians with SLA troops, after 750 of 1250 people scheduled to travel on the MV Lanka Muditha, a government run passenger service from Jaffna to Trincomalee, were replaced by armed soldiers.
Of the 1250 civilians who had been issued tickets for the ship which sailed on Friday, about 750 were reportedly turned away on the grounds that they had arrived late and the ship could not accept them. However, residents from Jaffna said that the passengers were ready to board and were waiting. After long delays, they were told that the ship would not accept them.
The residents claim that soldiers with their weapons were instead loaded onto the ship in place of the civilians, and that the ship then sailed with 500 civilians.
A passenger service used to run between Jaffna and Trincomalee under the protection of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). This was suspended last month due bad weather.
ICRC's spokesman Harasha Gunawardene said that the organisation was compelled to suspend its escort as it was not possible to load and off load passengers and patients offshore at Point Pedro.