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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2251

Tamil Tigers block humanitarian aid to Jaffna on ICRC sponsored ships

From our Political Correspondent

Colombo, 13 September, ( Tamil Tigers block humanitarian aid to Jaffna on ICRC sponsored ships In a letter to Toon Vandenhove, Head of ICRC in Sri Lanka, the Tamil Tigers have refused "to provide protection to ICRC sponsored ships" ferrying humanitarian aid to Jaffna. Instead S. P. Tamilselvan, Head of the Tiger Political Division, is insisting that ICRC should use A9 road running through Tiger territory.

This new tactic of playing politics with humanitarian aid to the people trapped in Jaffna is bound to add to their hardship, according to aid workers.

Following the orders of the Tigers the ICRC refused to escort the Navy vessel transporting around 800 civilians trapped in Jaffna to Trincomalee after the Tigers closed the A-9 road. The Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) has accused the ICRC of succumbing to the dictates of the Tigers. GoSL argues that all INGOs operating in the country should work according to the Government requirements in the event of a humanitarian crisis and not according to the political needs of ICRC.

GoSL is concerned that the Tigers are obstructing aid to "500,000 civilians (who) have been trapped inside the Jaffna peninsula for one month", as stated by Tamilselvan in his letter to ICRC. A spokesperson asked: "If Tamilselvan is genuinely concerned about their plight, as stated by him, what does it matter if aid comes through the sea, air or land? Tamilselvan should stop shedding crocodile tears and start acting genuinely for the welfare of the Tamil people in Jaffna," he said.

Political analysts claim that there could be several reasons for the Tamil Tigers to insist on this unreasonable demand:

1. If goods go through the sea they will not be able to collect the illegal tax amounting to millions;

2. The Tigers cannot hijack some of the vehicles to siphon off essential goods
to feed and maintain their cadres at the expense of the Tamil public, or sell them in the black market with mark ups rising to astronomical levels;

3. This is a move to impress the international community that they can still call the shots and also to impress the Tamil people that they are still in control of a de facto state and

4. Controlling the flow of goods would help the Tigers to smuggle banned goods and also to infiltrate of exfiltrate cadres.

Whatever the reasons, this move of playing politics with humanitarian aid is going to be counter-productive, according to analysts.
It is against the Geneva conventions, according to ICRC sources. But Tamilselvan says that they adhere to these conventions while at the same time he refuses to let essential items go to the Tamil people in Jaffna except on the route prescribed them.

The GoSL maintains that it is their responsibility and duty to provide essential items to its citizens through whatever means it deems fit.

The following is the full text of the Tamil Tiger letter sent to ICRC:

As you are well aware, 500,000 civilians have been trapped inside the Jaffna peninsula for one month. There plight have been highlighted by many people including your organization and the Government Agent of Jaffna. The LTTE raised our concerns with you and wrote to you regarding this on 31 August 2006. We again appeal to you to take this issue up with great urgency.

The LTTE is fully committed to the articles of the Geneva Convention and the customary international laws that are applicable to non-international conflicts which have referred to. Please allow us to bring to your notice that the LTTE has always abided by these articles and customary laws. LTTE remains committed to them in the future.

We also wish to repeat here what we have already said in our earlier letter to you. The LTTE will give its pledge to stop all retaliatory fire during the land passage of, humanitarian supply convoys, ambulances, and employees of non-governmental organizations. We also assure protection and passage through standard procedures, for vehicles and travelers of these categories, through the A9 road in the areas under our administration.

Rather than take up this option, you have requested our authorization for the sea transport of essential items. Allow us to register our position and concerns about such a project.

The Ceasefire agreement (CFA), signed between the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE, does not have specific articles about demarcation lines in sea. Indeed, early problems with the ceasefire agreement were mainly about the sea access. This issue remains unresolved to this day. Under these circumstances it is not possible for us to provide protection to ICRC sponsored ship using these seas.

On the other hand, the land areas are demarcated in the CFA and we are in a position to ensure the safety of the ICRC sponsored vehicles while passing through the land areas in our control.

- Asian Tribune -

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