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Sri Lanka's Genocidal War - '95 to '01
A calamitous situation is facing 702,987 Tamils, says appeal to Canada
The Federation of Associations of Canadian Tamils (FACT) in a Press Release on September 23, 1998 declared:
"A calamitous situation of tragic proportions is facing 702,987 Tamils languishing in makeshift refugee camps in the NorthEast province, especially in the Vanni area. The Sri Lankan government has arbitrarily imposed an across the board cut of 40% in rations issued to refugees with effect from July 01,1998.
According to the Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority for the North, the total number of displaced persons island-wide as at 30th April 1998 is 800,845 belonging to 195,195 families. Out of them, a total of 796, 079 persons are in 15 welfare centres in several districts while the rest, numbering 4,766 are living with friends and relatives. What this means is that one in every 22.5 persons of a total population of 18 million is a refugee!
The breakdown of figures in welfare centres of various districts in the NorthEast according to the same source is as follows:
Jaffna 331, 065
Kilinochchi - 87, 665
Mullaitivu - 1 28,931
Mannar - 68,422
Vavunia - 32,197
Trincomalee - 26,542
Batticaloa - 24,010
Amparai - 4,155 702,987
In other words 87.78% of the refugees (living in the NorthEast) are Tamils! A staggering percentage when it is considered the Tamils in the NorthEast comprises only 12.7% of the total population. This means every third person in the NorthEast province is a refugee!
According to a situation report compiled by the Government Agent, in June 27, 1998, in Kilinochchi district alone a total of 42,352 families who were displaced from Jaffna consequent to military operations Riviresa II and Sath Jaya in 1995/96 have NOT been issued with any dry rations. These people have no alternative source of income generation for their sustenance while economic survival is not available in Vanni region because of the ongoing civil war.
The tragic situation has been further compounded by the Sri Lankan government because of the economic blockade of the North as well as restrictions placed on international relief agencies like UNCHR, CARE, ICRC, MSF, SCF, REDBARNA, OXFAM, FOURRUT from providing food to Tamil refugees.
The Refugee Council, UK in a news release issued last June titled 'Denying NGO freedom' states:
"In March this year Human Rights NGO, Peace Brigade International (PBI) was forced to close its offices and quit Sri Lanka following difficulties with the government in renewing its agreement to operate in the island."
In a Relief and Rehabilitation (RRN) paper titled 'The Coordination of Humanitarian Action: the case of Sri Lanka', the author Koenraad Van Brabant, says that the single most important impediment to effective humanitarian coordination is the Sri Lankan government, more particularly, the MILITARY, retaining the final authority and keeping agencies outside their mechanisms. (Refugee Council of UK dated June 05,1998).
The Humanitarian Law Project said in a statement issued in May 1998 at a meeting of the UNHCR, ICRC, Oxfam, CARE and MSF, there was agreement that provisions for the displaced in Sri Lanka were grossly insufficient. International pressure is not reaching the government, which in its callous disregard for the plight of these Tamils appears to be mired in a POLICY, THAT APPROACHES GENOCIDE.
Thousands of people living in uncleared areas of Vanni have been protesting against the cut in rations imposed by the government since August 06 by going on hunger strike in front of Kachcheries and UNCHR /ICRC. But the Sri Lankan government remains unmoved and unconcerned to the plight of these people whom it claims as its citizens. Apparently the government is using food as a WEAPON OF WAR to force the Tamil people into submission.
On August 20, Ranil Wickramasinghe, Leader of the Opposition moved an adjournment motion in the Parliament charging the government of starving the people of Vanni under the guise of fighting the LTTE. He highlighted the tragic plight of the ordinary civilians in the Vanni and warned the government NOT TO USE FOOD AS A WEAPON OF WAR.
We therefore appeal to the conscience of all Canadians to pressure the Sri Lankan government to lift the cut imposed on the issue of food to the Tamil refugees who are facing a Rwandan type starvation immediately. Sri Lankan government also must be compelled to lift the restrictions imposed on the international agencies from providing humanitarian relief, including food, to the Tamil refugees."
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka continues to assert:
and Tamils world wide appeal to the UN Secretary General on 16 September 1998 ...
Dear Hon. Kofi Annan,
On 9th of August 1991 the Sri Lankan Government introduced an economic embargo to deprive the Tamil North of food, fuel, electricity and medicine. This economic embargo has been tightened considerably under the current regime contributing to Tamil deaths through malnutrition and lack of medicines. This has prompted even the leader of the Sinhala Sri Lanka Parliamentary Opposition, Mr Ranil Wickramasinghe to point out that the current Government is using food as a weapon on civilians living in areas, controlled by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
Christian Aid (an International NGO operating in. the Vanni) has reported of "alarming health and severe malnutrition problems among refugees".
Professor Jordon J. Paust, the Law Foundation Professor at the University of Houston in an article in the Venderbuilt Journal of Transactional Law entitled "The Human Rights to Food, Medicine and Medical Supplies, and Freedom from Arbitrary and Inhuman Detention and Controls in Sri Lanka" is not only highly critical of the Sri Lanka government’s human rights record, but regards the denial of medical supplies and medicines a serious war crime.
According to Professor Paust the intentional with holding, of food and medical supplies from LTTE-controlled areas is a clear violation of Article 3, and as such, a war crime. He has quoted the US State Department Country Reports (1997 & 1998) to say, "within the 1997 Country Report, one finds a shocking confirmation of war crime policies and activities with respect to medicine and medical supplies... War crime policies are further documented in the 1998 Country Report"
Throughout its war against the Tamil people, the Sri Lankan government has targeted Tamil civilians in the belief that Tamils could be terrorised into submission. This is clear in Sri Lanka’s use of food as a weapon of war.
It was this situation which prompted the International League for the Rights and Liberation of Peoples, whose patrons include Noam Chomsky and whose President is Nobel Laureate Adolfo Perez Esquivel, to appeal to the members of the UN Commission on Human Rights at its 53rd Sessions in March 1997 "to take urgent measures to end the genocidal situation existing in Sri Lanka today."
Form August 1998, the people in Vanni are demonstrating against this enforced starvation. The government has reduced the food supplied to this area by 70%. Even the 30% that is sent is contaminated with worms, flies and insects. From the 9th of September 1998, the Tamil people are on a hunger strike in front of the UNHCR office in Kilinochchi and other Vanni areas. The government of Sri Lanka is violating their fundamental right to live.
We request you to take urgent action to prevent the continuing deaths of innocent civilians.