'Let us go' say Jaffna refugees

Place: Jaffna | Courtesy: TamilNet
| Date: 20000404

"Do you intend to give us 2000 rupees to buy our coffins?" "Are you going to let us be used as human shields?" asked angry refugees from the war zones in the southern sector of Jaffna when senior government officials went to distribute dry rations among them this morning.

More than three thousand civilians who fled the war have been blocked at Kilali by the Sri Lanka Army since Sunday. The irate refugees were reacting to reports in the media that the government had promised to give 2000 rupees (28 USD) as relief to each family displaced from the war zone near Jaffna's gateway garrison following representations made by Tamil Parliamentarians about their plight yesterday.

Hundreds of civilians who fled the fighting between the Liberation Tigers and the Sri Lanka army on Sunday surrounded the Director of Planning at the Jaffna Kachcheri, Mr. S.Mahalingam, his deputy Mr. R.Nallaiah and Additional Director (Planning) Mr.S.Sathiyaseelan when they went to see refugees today. The officials had also taken two lorry loads of dry rations to be distributed among the refugees. But the displaced civilians refused to accept the rations from the them. Some in the crowd told the officials "We came here not because we have no money or food, but to save our lives. So you must let us go to find safety."

As he was unable to persuade the displaced to take the rations, Director for Planning (Jaffna) directed that the lorries be unloaded near the Kilali SLA camp.

There are 1114 persons housed in the Kilali Roman Catholic Tamil Mixed School and the Church in the same compound.

The SLA says that it has a legitimate security concern in allowing these civilians to go to the other parts of Jaffna without screening them first, to identify infiltrators.

The refugees scoff at this, pointing out that the Tigers need not have to mingle among them to infiltrate but are now in a position to walk through the very large gaps in the SLA's internal defences in Jaffna that have been created by the Unceasing Waves III offensive and by the closing down of several military camps over the week.

Hundreds of refugees have moved into Pandithar Kudiyiruppu, an abandoned housing scheme that was built by the Liberation Tigers when they were in control of Jaffna, following the army's refusal to let them pass beyond Kilali. Others have gone to Pallai, Vidaththal Pallai and Pulopallai to stay with friends and relatives who had opted to stay in the war zone.

Despite several appeals to the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees made on behalf of the people who fled the war zone in Jaffna's southern sector, very little has been done to resolve the question of assisting these civilians who are caught in the war zone in Jaffna where the Liberation Tigers and the SLA are locked in fierce battles and relentless artillery duels said a Catholic Church source today.

Release refugee says Tamil group

[TamilNet, April 05, 2000 04:25 GMT]

A Tamil group in Colombo called on the international community today to persuade the Sri Lankan government to let the refugees held up at Kilali in Jaffna by the Sri Lanka army proceed to safer areas in other parts of the northern peninsula.

The leader of the Tamil Eelam Liberation Organisation an ex Tamil militant group in Colombo issued a statement to the press this morning. Following is the full text of the release.

"More than five thousand Tamil civilians including children remain trapped in Pallai and Kilali areas for the last several days in the midst of the on-going military confrontation between the Sri Lanka armed forces and the LTTE in the north of Sri Lanka.

"These innocent civilians are still prevented by the armed forces from leaving the theatre of war inspite of their frantic and fervent pleas to do so."

"These civilians are being detained to provide a human shield and are thus facing the imminent danger of getting killed or injured."

"We, therefore, earnestly and urgently appeal to the international community to impress upon the government of Sri Lanka its constitutional and moral obligation to permit forthwith all these defenceless citizens to leave the theatre of war in order to ensure their safety and security."

'Let them go' say Jaffna protestors

[TamilNet, April 06, 2000 09:14 GMT]

More than eight hundred people staged a sit in protest today in front of the district secretariat of Jaffna town, urging the Sri Lankan government and the international community to guarantee the safety of civilians trapped in the battle zones of the peninsula's southern sector and to let them move out to safer areas.

The sit-in was organised by the People's Council for Peace and Goodwill (PCPG). More than forty NGOs and religious bodies took part in the protest. The government agent and Kachcheri officials could not enter the premises of the secretariat due to the sit-in protest which began around 7 a.m this morning.

Jaffna town SLA commander, Col.Jayatilleke came to the spot and spoke to the protestors. He asked them to make way for the officials so that they could open the Kachcheri. The protestors, however, refused to oblige him.

The sit-in was concluded around 11 a.m. The protestors then went in a procession to the offices of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and handed over memoranda to officials there.

The protestors then returned to the Kachcheri and held a meeting in front of the secretariat. One of the speakers, T.Prabhaharan, president of the Jaffna University Arts Faculty student union, appealed to the government agent to urge the Sri Lankan President to stop using the civilians trapped in Jaffna's war zone as human shields. He said this was against the Geneva Conventions.

The memorandum handed over to the GA by the PCPG says that there are 900 families comprising more than 3500 persons trapped in Maasaar and seven villages in its vicinity and that they are suffering without essentials. And that there are 249 families comprising 1100 persons held up at Kilali by the army. (Maasar is close to the Elephant Pass garrison.)

The memorandum states that despite a letter by the Jaffna security forces commander Maj.Gen. Chula Senevaratne granting permission to these civilians to proceed beyond Kilali to safer areas in the peninsula, army officers in the war zones had declined to let them go.

Jaffna Students In Boycott

[TamilNet, April 07, 2000 08:51 GMT]

Jaffna University Students are boycotting lectures from today demanding army authorities to permit civilians held up in the war zone to leave the area.

The Students Union said about 3,500 civilians are being held by the government troops as human shields in the villages of Pallai, Pachchilaipalli, Maasar, Soranpattu and Sinnathalayadi area and are barred from communicating with relatives.

The students demand that immediate steps should be taken to allow these civilians to proceed to safer areas.