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Sri Lanka's Genocidal War - '95 to '01
Sri Lanka bans international agencies from aiding Tamil refugees
"While Sri Lanka's army fights to crush Tamil rebels, it's battling on another front against foreign relief workers trying to care for 400,000 war refugees. The refugees, including hundreds of wounded civilians, are caught behind the civil war's front line. Western relief agencies accuse the military of blocking desperately needed aid. Tight restrictions are preventing the delivery of drugs, tents and blankets as well as equipment to build latrines, said frustrated aid officials, who spoke on condition they not be named. ...
"About half of the 400,000 Tamil refugees are living and sleeping outdoors in heavy monsoon rains, said Gerard Peytrignet, who heads the International Committee of the Red Cross here. The rest are holed up in churches, schools and relatives' homes. The refugees have very little food or proper sanitation, he added.Doctors are already seeing cases of dysentery and eye infections, and while cholera hasn't struck yet, the conditions are perfect for a deadly epidemic, relief workers warned.
"Sri Lanka's military won't let journalist cross into areas controlled by the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Relief workers are so afraid of making the government angry, they refuse to photograph or shoot video of the refugees suffering and smuggle the pictures out to reporters.
"The war-zone's few hospitals are dangerously low on anaesthetics for surgery and several drugs essential to stopping the spread of diseases and treating war casualties, relief workers said. Few were willing to criticise the government publicly because they are afraid it will shut down their relief operation in retaliation.......'I think they don't want an International presence there to witness what's happening,' a senior Western relief official said. (The Toronto Star, November 5, 1995 By Paul Watson Asian Bureau)
The BBC reported on Monday 6 November:
- " Sri Lanka has banned international agencies from aiding Tamil refugees over fears that some are not impartial. We do not intend to permit any outside agencies, including the UN...to carry out independent operations", said Foreign Minister Laksham Kadiragamar. He also expressed displeasure at the appeal made by UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros Ghali, whom he accused of exaggerating the situation. Tens of thousands of Tamil refugees are fleeing a government assault on the Tamil Tiger stronghold in the north."
The Sri Lanka state controlled Daily News reported on 7 November 1995:
"Mr. Kadirgamar said he would write to UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros Ghali about his statement expressing his deep concern about the massive displacement of civilians in the northern province."It will be a little sharp", he said. He revealed that Boutros-Ghali had made his statement "without the full knowledge of the available facts" and despite pleadings by the Sri Lankan ambassador... Some reports place the number of displaced at 400,000. The minister questioned the veracity of the figure and said the government placed the figure at 100,000 after taking into account the numbers that had left the peninsula to the south and to foreign countries."
"At a Press Conference on 22 October, Sri Lanka military spokesman Brigadier Sarath Munasinghe,'denying the charge levelled by the LTTE that the security forces have resorted to killings of civilians and the looting of houses, admitted that non-combatants had fled from the area over which the security forces had established control.' According to the Brigadier, the civilians may have moved to places of safety following the air drop of leaflets warning of a fresh Government offensive against the LTTE. "We appreciate this," he said.(Hindu Report, 23 October 1995)
But, when the people of Jaffna and Valigamam in the peninsula fled before the advance of the Sinhala army which came as self proclaimed 'liberators' the Sri Lanka government shifted its position and claimed on 4 November that the exodus of Tamil civilians was somehow 'contrived' by the LTTE to deprive the government of 'the stated rationale for its military action, namely to liberate the people of the peninsula from LTTE control'! The explanation would have been farcical if not for its callous disregard of the unfolding human tragedy in the Tamil homeland, caused by the wanton actions of the Sri Lanka armed forces.
First Sri Lanka said that the non combatants had moved because of the warning leaflets dropped by the Sri Lanka airforce. Then Sri Lanka said that the exodus was 'contrived' by the LTTE. Later Foreign Minister Kadirgamar quibbled about numbers, suggesting with equanimity that a figure of 100,000 displaced Tamils without shelter and food was somehow an acceptable level of suffering.
But, the UNHCR Resident Representative Peter Meijer told the Colombo press that according to reports
'about three fourths of the population of Jaffna had been displaced.' Medicine Sans Frontiers Country Director said the organisation normally works in colloboration with the Health Ministry and that the organisation had so far not been called by the Sri Lanka Government to assist in the matter. (reported in the Sinhala owned Sri Lanka Sunday Times on 5 November 1995)
" On the idyllic island of Sri Lanka today, a reported half-million Tamil refugees are fleeing troops of the central government homeless and exposed to monsoon rains, falling sick and dying from-disease. The Sri Lankan government of President Chandrika Kumaratunga has insisted that it be the entity to distribute international humanitarian aid, complaining that nongovernmental organizations have permitted relief supplies to benefit the secessionist Tamil movement known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
"Since most of the refugees who fled the government forces closing in on the nothern city of Jaffna are now in territory controlled by the Tigers, relief supplies channeled through the government could not help those in need, whatever the intentions of the government.
"Because the war zone has been closed to reporters and cameras, the human calamity visited upon the Tamils has become a tree falling unheard in the forest. Yet their suffering is as grievous as that of refugees in the former Yogoslavia.
"For the sake of a single humane standard, the United States and other governments should insist that humanitarian aid to refugees be delivered under international supervision. There is also a need for outside parties willing to help broker a ceasefire and a negotiated peace between the Tamil minority and the Sri Lankan government. As in Bosnia, millions of civilians must be saved from the madness of their leaders." (Boston Globe Editorial November 27, 1995)
see also Sri Lanka uses food and medicine as weapons of war