Feature Article

Water war

[TamilNet, Saturday, 05 August 2006, 16:33 GMT]
"Defensive attacks" launched by Liberation Tigers four days ago with the surprise artillery attacks on Trincomalee naval base, and the sweeping attacks on Sri Lanka Army (SLA) camps and positions in Muthur and southern sector of Trincomalee, were interpreted as the Tiger response to the three-month-long humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Muthur East, where 30 000 civilians were forced to live as Internally Displaced People (IDPs). Supply of drinking water, one of the most basic needs, emerged as a critical issue as wells dried in the hottest spell as August approached, says Trincomalee Parliamentarian K. Thurairatnasingham.

Trincomalee district TNA parliamentarian K.Thurairatnasingham.
"Nomination of the former SLA Major General as the Government Agent (GA) amidst strong objection by Tamil parliamentarians, signalled the impending difficulties civilians would face with the inevitable militaristic approach to civil adminstration," the Tamil National Alliance MP who has travelled extensively in the district says.

In addition to ongoing miitary campaign, Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) imposed economic blockade on fuel, medicine and essential items including as baby-milk-powder, worsened the humanitarian situation.

Around 30 villages and 10,000 families were affected by the blockade.

The Muttur East AGA division, which consists of more than 30 villages, includes Kadatkaraichenai, Senaiyoor, Sampoor, Ilakkanthai, Sudaikudah, Pattalipuram and Koolithivu. Muttur east has a population of more than 30,000 with about 10,000 registered voters.

Enlarged map at the bottom of the story

Electricity supply was suspended to these villages. The villagers were relying on kerosene lit lamps for light and for fuel for cookers.

More than 30 schools were damaged in the three-pronged attacks by the Sri Lankan forces in Muttur East villages.

Artillery, multi-barrel rocket launcher, and attacks from Dvora gunboats were launched at least 10 times since April 25. Kfir jets bombed the area whenever Colombo felt need for "limited operation," the MP says.

Major attacks were registered on April 25, April 26, May 11, June, July 01, July 14 and on July 26.

The crisis on supply of drinking water erupted as a serious issue as wells began to dry, and the few humanitarian NGOs that were transporting the available water, a measure in place following the Boxing Day Tsunami, were forced to cancel their service due to the lack of the fuel, caused by the embargo.

12 villages were badly affected by the drinking water crisis: Pallikkudiyiruppu, Thangapuram, Santhanavettai, Seenivasapuram, Sinnakulam, Iththikulam, Pattalipuram, Veeramanakar, Malaimundal, Nallur, Uppural and Seenanveli.

3000 families were affected by the water crisis.

"A solution that could be easily resolved at divisional level or by the GA at district level, was escalated into a full blown military excercise using the Mavil Aaru dispute," the MP says.

Trincomalee District Political Head of the LTTE, S. Elilan, repeatedly brought the matter to the attention of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission.

"While the ground situation was worsening, the plight of Muthur East villages were not prioritized by the agenda-makers of the peace time," says the TNA MP.

"It was the EU ban on the LTTE, Oslo Talks, Regional and International power politics that dominated the agenda. Everyone got busy with their own agendas."

"Repeated calls for humanitarian assistance went in vain. Normalcy was no more."

It is in this backdrop, the Maavilaru crisis arose.

"Tamils, by blocking the Maavilaru sluice gates, made Sinhalese to demand water for their crops."

The people of the Allai Extended Scheme (AES) area have experienced similar reservoir blockages on various locations for more than 20 years.

"Even when the such disputes arose during the times of war, the civil and community leades resolved the issues locally."

With Israeli styled military approach Colombo was adamant in pursuing a military solution ignoring the hard learned ground realities, the MP further says.

"This is perhaps the last chance to restore normalcy and ensure equitable humanitarian assistance to hardly hit civilians and strengthen the foundations for peace based on ground realities with equitable humanitarian focus," said Thurairatnasingham.

Map produced on 29 April 2006 by UN Humanitarian Information Centre, Sri Lanka.

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