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Sri Lanka's Genocidal War - '95 to '01
The Asian Human Rights Commission in an Urgent Action Alert (UA64/99) titled 'Sri Lanka: Some 350,000 Tamils Face Starvation in Wanni' said on 9 December 1999:
"AHRC expresses deep concern on deteriorating food security situation in the Wanni area. Reports from Wanni indicate the situation had not improved as thousands of Tamils in Wanni continue to starve. Tamil political parties and the Catholic church have called on the government to take urgent steps to rush food and medical supplies to the area where some 350,000 civilians are undergoing severe hardships. The refugees are on brink of starvation following the government's denial of food relief for almost a month to this areas.
Food supplies were stopped when the LTTE [Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam] launched an offensive on 2nd November 1999, seizing towns and military camps from the Sri Lankan Army.
Starvation threatens nearly 17,000 displaced people who fled to the Madhu Shrine to escape intensified conflict between the army and rebels in the Wanni region. Ongoing fighting in the area means that both the Mannar and Madhu roads to the shrine have been closed and the people sheltered there face pressing food shortages. The church is calling with urgency for a route to be opened to allow a food convoy to reach people in the shrine. The parties to the conflict agree to have a route opened but differ as to what path the convoy should take.
While they fight it out, a food crisis looms at the shrine, where people are fleeing to as there are no LTTE fighters or army soldiers there. Until 3 December, 16,711 people had gone to the shrine, seeking shelter and assistance from the church which is ill equipped meet their needs as it was not expecting such large scale displacement.
The Bishop of Mannar, Rayappu Joseph, in whose diocese the Madhu Shrine is situated, pleaded for food, saying that supplies are fast running out. Bishop Joseph himself is stranded in the shrine. He said some people had walked for a whole day to reach the shrine, and on arrival found that there was no food or even plastic sheeting for shelter.
An emergency situation prevails for which nobody has a solution. There is a shortage of food, medicine and milk powder. Rain has been pouring continuously, and people have no warm clothes. There is no permanent housing so tents must be pitched, but there is no plastic sheeting so people are sitting under trees. The onset of the rainy season compounds the agony of these people.
LTTE agreed but the Sri Lankan Army is wary
Minority Tamil parties in Sri Lanka have joined the appeal of the Vicar General of the Mannar Diocese, Xavier Croos, to the government to rush food supplies to the area and to reach a consensus about safe corridors. The LTTE has agreed to having a food convoy pass along the Vavuniya-Madhu road but the army is wary of this proposal which means that the convoy will have to pass through stretches of thick forest where it may be ambushed by the rebels. The army suggested a path through Vavuniya and other villages, a proposal which puts the populations of these villages at risk as they may be used as human shields.
Starvation is not the only danger threatening the displaced people sheltered at the shrine. On 20 November, 42 people were killed when the shrine was shelled: most died on the spot. The victims included 13 children, one mother lost all four of her children aged between six and 13 years.
Since the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) launched a major offensive on 2 November to reclaim land in the region lost to the army, tens of thousands of people have fled their homes, at times following warnings from the warring parties. Earlier in the month, most of the population of Vavuniya - which consists of around 100,000 people - fled following rebel warnings that the town was about to be shelled. The LTTE then assured people they could return, and some did.
Now, those people who live within three kilometres of the army camps have been told by the LTTE to leave their homes again. The army has some seven camps in Vavuniya, and it would not allow the people living around the camps to leave. On 24 November, 7,000 people left Vankalai and an estimated 15,000 others moved from Uyilankulam, Murunkan and neighbouring areas. Over 3,000 people from Vankalai have taken refuge in Mannar Cathedral, another 3,000 have moved towards Madhu and Arippu, a small coastal village. Those who fled have sought refuge in schools, churches and temples, or simply sheltered under trees.
It looks like the war is going to continue, rather it will escalate. That means the suffering and agony is going to continue.
AHRC encourages you to write letters, faxes, and emails expressing your concern on this case. We urge every concerned group and person to take an active part in convincing the United Nations and the international community of the need for effective intervention to bring to an end systematic gross human rights abuses taking place in Sri Lanka.
Call for Urgent Food and Medical Relief
Call on the Sri Lankan government to sent essential supplies immediately. The uprooted and disorientated, refugees have no means of supporting themselves and are dependent on food coming from outside the Wanni. The government must ensure that food, medicines and other neccessary items will reach the thousands of refugees.
Denial of Food is a War Crime
Sri Lanka continues to commit serious human rights violation by the denial of adequate and available food and the denials of adequate medicine and medical supplies. The denial of food, medicine, and medical supplies violates international humanitarian law. In fact, any country should treat food as neutral property during armed conflicts."
SEND APPEALS TO:
President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga Presidential Residence "Temple Trees" Colombo 3, Sri Lanka Telegrams: President Kumaratunga, Colombo, Sri Lanka Faxes: + 94 1 33 37 03
Mrs Mary Robinson UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Palais Wilson Rue des Paquis 52 CH-1201 Geneve 1 Switzerland Fax : (41-22)-917-9012 Email: Mary Robinsion [email protected]
Ms. Sadako Ogata United Nations High Comission for Refugees [UNHCR] CP 2500, 1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland Email: Ms.Sadako Ogata, UNHCR [email protected] Ms.Sadako Ogata, UNHCR Indonesia [email protected]
SEND COPIES TO:
Diplomatic representatives of Sri Lanka accredited to your country and the following:
Hon. Ambassador Permanent Mission and Consulate General of Sri Lanka 56, Rue De Moillebeau, 5th Floor, 1 209, Geneva 19 Switzerland. Fax: (41-22) 734 9084 E-mail: [email protected]
Hon. High-Commissioner The High Commission of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka 13 Hyde Park Gardens London W2 2LU United Kingdom Fax: (0171) 262-7970 E-mail: [email protected] Please remember to send a copy of your letter to: [email protected] AHRC Ugent Appeals Programme Asian Human Rights Commission Unit D, 7th Floor, Mongkok Commercial Centre, 16 - 16B Argyle Street, Kowloon, HONGKONG Tel: +(852) - 2698-6339 Fax: +(852) - 2698-6367 E-mail: [email protected]