ICRC may move sick

[TamilNet, Friday, 23 July 1999, 13:30 GMT]
The Sri Lanka Army (SLA) has not agreed to let the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) take relief supplies to the Vanni by sea from Mannar to Vidaththaltheevu but has granted the organisation permission to transport the sick not only by sea but through any of the access routes that are closed now, SLA official said today.

SLA spokesman, Brigadier Sunil Tennekoon made his comments while addressing a press briefing at the People's Bank Training Centre auditorium in downtown Colombo this afternoon.

The Deputy Commissioner General of Essential Services (CGES) Mr.Upali Soysa, Foreign Ministry spokesman Ravinath Ariyasingha and Director of the Dept. Of Information Mr. Ariya Rubasingha were also present at the briefing today.

He said that the SLA has now made a fresh proposal to the Liberation Tigers to open an access route through Thunukkai, near Mankulam to send relief supplies to areas controlled by the LTTE.

The proposal has been conveyed to the LTTE by the ICRC, he said.

Several journalists asked him whether the SLA was playing it fair by asking the LTTE to withdraw five kilometers from its Forward Defence Lines to open the safe passage.

The Brigadier had no clear answer for the question.

However, when pressed by journalists, he said that the LTTE should put forward a counter proposal if they could not agree to the five kilometre safe withdrawal.

The military spokesman described at length the gains made by the SLA's recent Rana Gosa operation.

He said that the army has captured 1285 square kilometres during the four phases of the operation and that 32998 people are physically present in this area.

He claimed that the army had killed 293 Tigers and recovered 1536 anti personnel land mines during the four phases of Operation Rana Gosa.

The Deputy CGES issued documents among journalists giving statistics about the food and refugee situation in the Vanni.

He said that the government had not sent relief supplies to the Vanni only for May and June.

This was due to the closure of the access route he said.

According to the Deputy CGES, the Mullaithivu Government Agent (GA) requires 23.7 million rupees to buy relief supplies locally but has been given 12 million rupees for the purpose and the Kilinochchi GA needs 15 million to do the same but has been sent 6 million.

The Mannar GA requires 13.5 million to purchase relief supplies locally for issuing rations to displaced persons in both LTTE controlled and government parts of his district but has been given 2.7 million for the purpose the deputy CGES said.

The statistics issued at the briefing by the Deputy CGES seemed to be so aimed at obfuscating the issue that journalists asked him why the government had not sent any milk food to the Mullaithivu and Kilinochchi districts.

The deputy CGES replied that the GAs of those districts had not asked for any milk food.

In an apparent attempt to parry pointed questions from journalists about the current state of food stocks in the Vanni, the Deputy CGES said that it was not his responsibility to send food supplies to the permanent residents of the Vanni but that of the Food Commissioner.

He also said that he cannot say how much food stock was available in the Vanni now.

According to the deputy CGES there are 15756 families comprising 64558 persons who are internally displaced in the Kilinochchi district and 23775 families comprising 97878 persons in the Mullaithivu district.

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