ICRC to focus on missing persons this year
[TamilNet, Thursday, 30 January 2003, 05:31 GMT]
As there is a currently a ceasefire in the North-East, the ICRC has stopped many of its war-time humanitarian services, but it will fully involve itself in the search for missing persons this year, according to the resident representative of the ICRC in Batticaloa, Mr. Daniel Scheiwiller.
In a press conference held Wednesday in Batticaloa, Mr. Scheiwiller explained the humanitarian and development activities of the ICRC from January to December 2002 in the district. Newly appointed ICRC resident representative, Ms. Felipa Gomes Pereira, who will replace Mr. Scheiwiller, ICRC press coordinator Mr. M. Pushparajan, and ICRC spokesman Mr. Sukumar Rockwood participated at the meeting.
Mr. Scheiwiller said, "When there was war in this country, we provided humanitarian services to the people, and helped exchange bodies between the warring parties. But currently there is peace and we have stopped many of our humanitarian services. We have also reduced our development activities and transferred them to other international volunteer organizations that have come forward to do the development work.
"Even though there is a ceasefire now, we are continuing to watch whether the warring parties observe internationally accepted humanitarian norms.
"When there was war, we helped run the medical camps in the LTTE-controlled areas. We also helped the Sri Lankan Red Cross financially in conducting medical camps. But as currently government doctors can reach the LTTE controlled areas and there is no restriction on medicine being taken to these areas, we have stopped these services for now.
"However, we continue to maintain the wells and irrigation tanks we helped construct for the public in the Polannaruwa and Batticaloa districts. And this year, ICRC will fully focus on finding the missing persons."
Journalists pointed out that there are no permanent hospitals and doctors in the LTTE-controlled areas. The public continues to undergo serious hardships and normality has not been restored. Could the ICRC help change the situation, the journalists asked.
Mr. Scheiwiller responded that the ICRC asked both parties to the ceasefire agreement to find alternative facilities and "only with the agreement by both parties to do so did the ICRC decide to stop the services."