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Sri Lanka's Genocidal War - '95 to '01
Tamil Refugees hit by food cuts says British Refugee Council...
The British Refugee Council Sri Lanka Monitor reported in August 1998 under the heading "Refugees hit by food cuts":
"....The reduction in humanitarian aid by the Sri Lankan government to the north-east is causing international concern and has led to protests within the island.
From 1 July, the Essential Services Commissioner (ESC) reduced dry rations for refugees in the northern Vanni area by 57% although initially the government announced a cut of around 20%. Over 440,000 people in the Vanni received dry rations, based on surveys and estimates by senior state officers, the Government Agents (GA), but from July only 190,000 are entitled to food aid.
Colombo bureaucrats have questioned the refugee figures submitted by the GAs. A three-member government committee, appointed in October 1996 to determine the number of refugees, had submitted its report without visiting the Vanni. The report remains unpublished.
While a number of essential goods remain banned, food has been progressively reduced to areas controlled by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the north-east. The 60,000 people who fled to the Vanni following the Army�s Operation Riviresa II (Sunray) in Jaffna in April 1996 were denied food aid and the government slashed food assistance by some 40% in May 1997.
Those displaced by the Army operation Sathjaya (Truth�s Victory) in Kilinochchi in September 1996 were also excluded from assistance. Although the government�s financial problems are blamed for the latest cuts, reports say no international appeal has been launched for assistance to help the refugees.
The government suspects that food to the Vanni reaches the LTTE. Observers say that even if part of the food ends up in Tiger hands, the cuts are arbitrary and will result in the denial of basic needs of the population. The reduction, the observers allege, has the strategic aim of bringing pressure on the LTTE and forcing Jaffna people to leave the Vanni.
..... Adding to the problems, there is also a government delay for permits for humanitarian relief. Permits for shelter and other essential materials are pending before the Ministry of Defence for several months. Observers say the humanitarian work of international agencies has been made difficult by such delays.
....Meanwhile, it has been discovered that 14,509 tonnes of rice, sugar, lentils and milk food estimated at Rs 310 million ($4.8 million) approved by the ESC during the period April to December 1997, had not reached Jaffna. The Cooperative Wholesale Establishment (CWE) has begun an enquiry into the disappearance of food.
Reports say Batticaloa District has been badly hit by the food cut. Earlier, 479 families in refugee camps and 5,316 families living with relatives or friends received food aid. But now, the camp refugees and only 3,151 families outside camps are entitled for assistance. Most of those living with friends or relatives are from contested border areas and cannot be resettled for security reasons. Reports say the deprived families are living on lotus roots and leaves.
......In early August, thousands of people began demonstrations before offices of the ICRC, UNHCR and other international agencies at Mallavi in the Vanni, some of which ended in violence. Government offices were forced to close temporarily as a result of the protests. UNHCR Colombo representative Bo Schack says that inter-governmental agencies and international NGOs cannot be blamed because the government has made it clear that it is solely responsible for food supply to the war zone.