Vanni situation talks inconclusive

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 09 December 1997, 23:59 GMT]
The meeting called by Sri Lanka's Deputy Minister of Defence Gen. Anuruddha Ratwatte today with all the parties in Parliament ended on an inconclusive note, said leaders of Tamil parties which participated in the discussion.

TULF leader M. Sivasithamparam, its Trinco MP Sampanthan, EPDP leader Douglas Devananda, its Jaffna MPs Sivathasan and Chandrakumar, UNP's Joseph Micheal Perera and Mrs. R. Pulendran and the four GA's of the Vanni region participated in today's meeting.

Officials from the Ministry of Health were also present.

The central issue in the discussion was the contradiction between the Deputy Defence minister's insistence that there were only 275000 people in the Vanni and the reports of the government agents in the Vanni which claim that there are 490,000 civilians in the region.

The Gen. insisted that his was the correct figure and that food and medicine will be sent according to this estimation. He blamed minor officials under the Vanni GAs for providing false information about true population figures in the Vanni.

The Tamil parties, however, prevailed upon him to avoid getting into the controversy over the actual number of people who are currently living in the Vanni.

The GAs of the Vanni, however, told General Ratwatte that the purchasing power of the people living in the Vanni has come down drastically in recent times.

They pointed out that the government has stopped poor relief in the region. The Tamil parties told the General that the people there should either be given poor relief or that all civilians in the Vanni should be given dry rations.

The problem of the shortage in medical supplies was also raised. The General said that medical supplies for the fourth quarter of 97 have already been sent to the Vanni and that some medicines could not be sent because they were not available even in Colombo.

A suggestion was made that these be supplied through the MSF.

The problem of the Vavuniya transit camps was also discussed.

The TULF leader tried to lighten the mood by saying that even condoms are in short supply in the Vanni. Ex-Tamil militants groups which were present at the meeting did not take kindly to this.


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