SL Police raids TRO Colombo office

[TamilNet, Saturday, 06 January 2007, 08:26 GMT]
Sri Lankan Police, without producing any warrant, raided the Colombo office of the Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation Saturday morning and searched the office, NGO officials at the TRO office in Colombo told media. The raid on Colombo office by the CID, follows after the raids on Vavuniya and Trincomalee offices Friday. "The continuous harassment of TRO is having a tremendously negative impact on the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the affected people of the NorthEast," the TRO, the only organization working in some of the most severely affected parts of the NorthEast, said in a press statement Saturday.

Six members of the Criminal Investigation Division had asked for the home addresses of TRO staff of the Colombo office.

On Friday, the CID and Special Task Force personnell who searched the TRO offices in Vavuniya and Trincomalee, seized all the documents, project files, accounts details, computers, check books, vouchers, and computer disks, TRO said.

All personnel at both offices were also photographed and videotaped as were the vehicles and the offices’ interior and exterior.

Four TRO officials and workers were taken to the Police station at 3:30 PM and it was not until 9:30 PM that the last male employee was released, according to a TRO press statement.

Two of the TRO Trincomalee staff were summoned to the Trinco Police station for questioning and remain at the Police Station.

TRO is a legal, functioning NGO registered with the Government of Sri Lanka (Registration No. Number L 50706).

The Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) froze the TRO Sri Lanka Bank Accounts for 6 months “for investigation” on 28 August.

"TRO continues its humanitarian relief work with IDPs despite the freezing of the bank accounts by the CBSL," Arjunan Ethirveerasingham, Project Manager and Media Relations officer told media Friday.

TRO's Board of Governors, in a report issued on 26 December 2006, two years after the Boxing Day Tsunami, listed the problems faced by the NGO workers in general and TRO in particular.

There have been 19 major attacks, and numerous minor attacks, on TRO aid workers, offices or projects over the past two years, the report said.

"These attacks have forced TRO to take extra security measures to ensure staff and beneficiary safety. TRO aid workers in some areas have been intimidated, threatened, harassed, assaulted, and 'disappeared' by the GoSL security forces and paramilitary forces."

TRO projects and IDP camps have been bombed and shelled by the GoSL and hand grenades have been thrown into the Batticaloa and Jaffna offices with the latter also being burnt to the ground.

"The most recent atrocities were the shelling by GoSL forces of clearly designated TRO IDP camps in the Vaharai area," the report added.

On 8 November 2006 in Karhiraveli, Vaharai 47 IDPs were killed and 136 injured by GoSL shelling. The TRO Children’s Home was damaged and 12 children were injured.

On 10 December 2006 a similar incident occurred when the GoSL shelled 3 TRO IDP camps in Palchchenai, Kandalady, and Vammivadduvan. 40 IDPs were killed and 100 injured in this incident.

In January 2006 seven (7) TRO aid workers were abducted by armed paramilitary gunmen. One of these persons, Mr. Ganeshalingam, was a member of TRO’s Board of Governors, while the others were Pre School administrative staff and the Batticaloa Chief Accountant, Ms. Premini, and her team of accountants. These people remain “disappeared” with no real investigation having taken place by the responsible authorities.

The TRO Batticaloa office has been attacked 3 times on: 7 August 2003, 13 June 2005, and 27 September 2005 by paramilitaries with grenades and machine guns. A TRO Security Guard was killed during the 27 September attack and 2 Staffers injured & 5 vehicles destroyed during 13 June attack. TRO closed the Batticaloa Office soon after the September attack due to the inability of the GoSL security forces to stop attacks and ensure the safety of humanitarian workers.

In August 2006, the Vadamarachchi East TRO Boatyard and the Eachchilampattu TRO Boatyard, 2 of the 6 Boat building facilities that TRO constructed as part of tsunami livelihood projects, were destroyed by the Sri Lanka Air Force.



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