A Great Embarrassment for the Sri Lankan Military

[TamilNet, Friday, 13 June 1997, 23:59 GMT]
A Sri Lankan member of parliament, in a recent report, says that the food stock discovered by the military in the cooperative stores in the town of Nedunkerni in fact belonged to the cooperative stores and not to the LTTE as the Sri Lankan military had earlier claimed. The report states that the food was stored there for distribution to the displaced people and requests the military to the return the food to the cooperative stores.

Food stock stored in the government cooperative stores in Nedunkerni were shown in Rupavahini, the state run television, claiming that this was left by the fleeing LTTE and was promptly reported by several international reporters stationed in Colombo. It should be noted that the Sri Lankan government has barred reporters from the northern regions for the past two years.

Following the start of the Operation Jeya Sikuru (Sure Victory), the Sri Lankan military was severely criticized by the NGOs working in the Vanni region, including the UNHCR, for deliberately starving the Tamil people by preventing relief supplies. In addition, the NGOs also criticized the military for its relentless artillery shelling directed against the densely populated areas causing death, destruction and the displacement of thousands of civilians from their homes. The NGOs and the LTTE say that the Sri Lankan government censorship has been effective in hiding these acts of state terrorism from the international community.

It was in this context that the military officials announced their discovery of large amount of food stock left by the fleeing LTTE. Observers say that the claim served two purposes: First, to convince the international community that contrary to the NGOs' claim, there are no food shortages in the Vanni region and secondly to tarnish the LTTE's popularity among the Tamil population by implying that it is diverting the relief supplies for its own use.

However, timely action by the government agent of Vavuniya and the subsequent report by Siddharthan, a member of parliament, contradicting the military's claim and explaining the actual events have caused great embarrassment for the Sri Lanakan government.

In his report, Siddharthan stated that the food discovered and televised actually belonged to the government cooperative stores in Nedunkerni and not to the LTTE. The food was stored there for distribution to the displaced civilians in the regions of Oddisuddan, Olumadu, Karuppaddimunai and Mankulam. The employees of these cooperative stores fled Nedunkerni following the recent military operation and had asked the authorities in Vavuniya to take care of the food they left behind. Siddharthan concludes his report by requesting the government to take necessary steps to return the food to the cooperative stores for distribution to the displaced people.

Observers accuse the Sri Lankan military of frequently resorting to fabrications and concoctions of 'news' in its attempt to discredit the LTTE and say that the Sinhalese reporters working for the international news agencies are often favorably disposed to propagate them.


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