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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2864

TNA ducks Presidential invite citing humanitarian crisis

By Ravi Ladduwahetty – Sri Lanka Editor- Asian Tribune

Colombo, 26 March ( Tamil NationalR.Sampanthan  at the press conferenceR.Sampanthan at the press conference Alliance has ducked the invitation extended by President Mahinda Rajapaksa this evening at 6.30 pm to discuss the ethnic question but has issued a letter to the President citing reasons for unable to attend the meeting.

The host of reasons and allegations attributed in the latter to President Rajapaksa and co-signed by TNA Leader R. Sampanthan, ITAK General Secretary Mavai Senathirajah, EPRLF Secretary General Suresh Premachandran and All Ceylon Tamil Congress Secretary Gajendran Ponnambalam included: the Armed Forces firing at civilians in safe zone areas killing an average of 40-50 civilians per day, the non entry of Members of Parliament to the battle zone the non availability of medicine and other essentials

TNA Leader Rajyavarothiam Sampathan, addressing a news conference at Colombo’s Janaki Hotel and flanked by all the 15 MPs of his party said that he TNA has been deeply concerned about the humanitarian crisis in the north and the part could not watch and wait and that it will be only after these issues were resolved that they will come to the negotiating table.

We have told President Rajapaksa the issues which need to be resolved and it is only then that we will respond any talks with him, he said.

Responding to questions from Asian Tribune as to why the allegations were only against the Government and the Security Forces and what the TNA’s attitude was to the LTTE killing innocent and unarmed civilians and farmers who were guarding their paddy fields in the last two days and the LTTE firing anti aircraft missiles at Sri Lanka Air Force Bell Jet Ranger helicopters flying sick civilians from Pudukudirippu to Anuradhapura among the host of atrocities over the years, Sampanthan whose TNA which was hitherto holding a brief for the LTTE, said that killing in what ever form was bad and that who ever did it was wrong.

He also accused the Government of not allowing the Members of Parliament, NGOs and the media of not being allowed to visit the war areas to see what was happening, sounding as the war was a public circus meant for all to see!

We observe that you observe vaguely that you desire the prevailing political situation in the country without any specific references to the political issues that were discussed. There is no reference to the humanitarian crisis which is prevailing in the Mullaitivu. After the Government designated some of these areas as safe zones, civilians have moved there. Yet the Armed Forces have been firing artillery fire killing on an average 40-50 civilians and causing grave injuries to civilians many times more.
Some of the issues that the TNA letter to President Rajapaksa included:

1.Evicting all humanitarian organizations, restrictions of food and essentials to these areas.

2.No independent media is allowed to go to the areas.

3.Non functioning of the Vanni hospital as the Government bombing has destroyed all the medical facilities there.

4.The IDPs do not have even toilet facilities.

5.Complete inadequacy of drinking water and the situation is further aggravated with the lack of fuel for the bowsers, and water pumps and the water is also dangerous with constant shelling and bombing of the areas.

6.Over 3000 civilians killed that the beginning of the year in the safe zones.

7.Armed Forces bombing in these areas suggest that civilians were targeted.

8.More than 60,000 families (around 240,000 civilians) are living in the open areas with shelter made from tarpaulin. During hot weather it has become impossible to live.

Given below the text of the Letter written by the TNA Members of Parliament to Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa:

H.E. Mahinda Rajapakse,
President of the Democratic
Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka,
Presidential Secretariat,
Colombo 01.

Your Excellency,

Invitation to meet with the Tamil National Alliance

We thank you for the letter sent by your Secretary dated 20 March 2009, inviting us and all the other Members of Parliament belonging to the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) for a meeting chaired by you, to be held on 26 March 2009 at 6.30 p.m. at Temple Trees to discuss the prevailing political situation in the country.

We observe that you vaguely state that you desire to discuss the prevailing political situation in the country without any specific reference to the political issues that need to be discussed. There is also no reference to the grave humanitarian crisis prevailing in a part of the Mullaitheevu District, relating to around 300,000 internally displaced Tamil civilians. After the government designated certain areas as safe zones, these displaced Tamil civilians largely moved into these areas.

We consider it necessary to state certain facts pertaining to this grave humanitarian crisis relating to the displaced Tamil civilians.

1.The fighting between the Sri Lankan armed forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam’s (LTTE’s) military formations is said to be taking place on many fronts some distance away from the said government designated ‘safe zones’. Yet the Sri Lankan armed forces have been bombing the safe zone areas by air and artillery fire killing an average between 40 to 45 civilians on a daily basis and causing grave injuries to civilians many times more.

2.Despite the grave humanitarian crisis prevalent in these areas, the government has evicted all international humanitarian organizations and has since imposed restrictions on supplies to these areas tantamount to an embargo on food, medicine, shelter and other basic humanitarian items.

3.No independent media is permitted access to this area to report on the situation really prevailing in this area.

4.No functioning hospitals remain in the Vani as government bombing campaigns have destroyed all such facilities. There are gross shortages of medicines. Despite numerous requests by the few remaining medical officers in the Vanni, the government has failed to send adequate medicine. Diseases related to overcrowding, poor nutritional intake, a lack of sanitation and exposure to the elements are becoming prevalent. People have died recently as a result of complications which could have been easily treated had three been proper health facilities and medicine.

5.The Internally Displaced Persons do not have any form of toilet facilities. The government has banned all construction materials into the area and as a result building of temporary toilets has not been possible.

6.More than 60,000 families (240,000 individuals) are living in open areas with shelter made from tarpaulin. Due to the very hot weather conditions, staying in these shelters has become intolerable. The government has not allowed shelter materials into the area.

7.Even though there are around 300,000 civilians in the relevant areas, the government insists that there are only about 70,000 civilians in the area. This position of the government is inconsistent with the assessment of UN and other international agencies who estimate that there are around 200,000 displaced civilians in this area. In doing so the quantity of food aid and medicine and other essential humanitarian supplies sent is grossly inadequate and as a result the civilian population is starving to death or dying due to unavailability of medical supplies. It should be noted that within the last month, several people have died to starvation. The dead have included many children.

8.There is also a complete inadequacy of drinking water. Water Bowsers from Puthukuddirruppu are used for transporting water. This water is dangerous to collect due to continuous shelling and bombing of the area by the Sri Lankan armed forces. To compound matters, lack of fuel for the Bowsers and the water pumps is also hampering water collection and delivery. The situation regard to non drinking water (toilet, washing, cooking, etc) is that it is almost nonexistent.

9.Since the beginning of this year alone, over 3000 civilians have been killed in these so called ‘safe zones’ by bombing campaigns carried out by the Sri Lankan armed forces. Well over 8000 civilians have been gravely injured. The fact that the armed forces have been bombing these areas suggests that the civilians are being deliberately targeted. It is also our submission that the government’s failure to permit adequate food and medicine into these areas demonstrates that food and medicine are being used against the Tamil civilians as a weapon of war.

The TNA has made public this grave humanitarian situation and appealed to the government to take necessary steps to ensure that the Tamil civilians population is not harmed. The international community has similarly made strong appeals to the government on behalf of the Tamil civilian population. The government has not responded to these appeals. If the military attacks now humanitarian needs continue, a grave humanitarian catastrophe affecting the Tamil civilian population will before long occur in this area.

We consider it our primary duty to protect and safeguard the displaced Tamil civilian population from this grave humanitarian catastrophe. We have to therefore earnestly request:-

•That the military attacks be stopped immediately.

•Ensure that adequate supplies of food, medicines and shelter are sent immediately to sustain a civilian population of around 300,000 so that the displaced Tamil civilian population is not denied urgent humanitarian needs.

•Urge that UN agencies, the ICRC and other international NGOs are able to freely function in this area, and thereby ensure the fulfillment of the humanitarian needs of these displaced civilians.

We should also point out that international community has with one voice urged the government to swiftly take action on a foreside lines.

It is in the background of this grave humanitarian crisis relating to the Tamil civilian population that we have received your invitation. The Tamil people and our party are strongly of the view that the utmost priority must be given to the resolution of this humanitarian crisis before it assumes catastrophic proportions and that any political discussions to be purposeful and meaningful must follow such resolution.

Since you have hitherto consistently followed a policy of ignoring the TNA in regard to all political issues in the Northeast, we are glad that you now wish to engage in discussions with us, recognizing even though belatedly, that we represent that Tamil people.

We will extend our cooperation to any credible political process that seeks to evolve an adequate, acceptable and durable political solution to the Tamil question.
We would strongly urge that you take necessary steps to address forthwith the grave humanitarian crisis pertaining to the displaced Tamil civilian population.

Yours sincerely,

R. Sampanthan M.P
TNA Parliamentary Group Leader

Suresh Premachandren M.P
Secretary General, EPRLF

Mavatsenathrirajah M.P
General Secretary, ITAK

N.Srikantha MP
Leader, TELO

G.G.Ponnambalam MP
General Secretary, ACTC.

-Asian Tribune-

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