'Let us go' say Jaffna refugees

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 04 April 2000, 20:55 GMT]
"Do you intend to give us 2000 rupees to buy our coffins?" "Are you going to let us be used as human shields?" asked angry refugees from the war zones in the southern sector of Jaffna when senior government officials went to distribute dry rations among them this morning. More than three thousand civilians who fled the war have been blocked at Kilali by the Sri Lanka Army since Sunday. The irate refugees were reacting to reports in the media that the government had promised to give 2000 rupees (28 USD) as relief to each family displaced from the war zone near Jaffna's gateway garrison following representations made by Tamil Parliamentarians about their plight yesterday.

Hundreds of civilians who fled the fighting between the Liberation Tigers and the Sri Lanka army on Sunday surrounded the Director of Planning at the Jaffna Kachcheri, Mr. S.Mahalingam, his deputy Mr. R.Nallaiah and Additional Director (Planning) Mr.S.Sathiyaseelan when they went to see refugees today. The officials had also taken two lorry loads of dry rations to be distributed among the refugees. But the displaced civilians refused to accept the rations from the them. Some in the crowd told the officials "We came here not because we have no money or food, but to save our lives. So you must let us go to find safety."

As he was unable to persuade the displaced to take the rations, Director for Planning (Jaffna) directed that the lorries be unloaded near the Kilali SLA camp.

There are 1114 persons housed in the Kilali Roman Catholic Tamil Mixed School and the Church in the same compound.

The SLA says that it has a legitimate security concern in allowing these civilians to go to the other parts of Jaffna without screening them first, to identify infiltrators.

The refugees scoff at this, pointing out that the Tigers need not have to mingle among them to infiltrate but are now in a position to walk through the very large gaps in the SLA's internal defences in Jaffna that have been created by the Unceasing Waves III offensive and by the closing down of several military camps over the week.

Hundreds of refugees have moved into Pandithar Kudiyiruppu, an abandoned housing scheme that was built by the Liberation Tigers when they were in control of Jaffna, following the army's refusal to let them pass beyond Kilali. Others have gone to Pallai, Vidaththal Pallai and Pulopallai to stay with friends and relatives who had opted to stay in the war zone.

Despite several appeals to the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees made on behalf of the people who fled the war zone in Jaffna's southern sector, very little has been done to resolve the question of assisting these civilians who are caught in the war zone in Jaffna where the Liberation Tigers and the SLA are locked in fierce battles and relentless artillery duels said a Catholic Church source today.


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