'March for medicine' - protest rally in Vanni

Place: Vanni | Courtesy: News from Tamil Eelam
| Date: 19970108

Sri Lankan soldiers shot dead at least two Tamil civilians during its recently concluded 'Rivijaya' military operation. Victim S. Muthulingam was a 14 year old while Thambirasa Kanthasamy was 32, both from Kithul. Family man Sabapathy Mylvaganam meanwhile disappeared during the operation and is believed by his family to have been murdered by Sinhala armed forces. Operation Rivijaya took place in Batticaloa and, like all other Sri Lankan military operations, showed no regard for the lives and property of the Tamil people. 16 Tamil houses were demolished and 100 Tamil families are reported displaced. Further civilian casualties are coming to light and will be documented when details are known.

Sri Lanka at present has in place a strict block on essential medical items which stops Tamils obtaining even the pain-killer Panadol. Many leading members of the Vanni community at the demo condemned Sri Lanka's policy saying it used medicine as a weapon of war to cripple the Tamil people not living under its own areas of occupation. Yesterday's protest saw school-children, teachers, businessmen, doctors and even some hospital patients take to the streets and issue an appeal to the president, opposition leader and health minister to withdraw their inhuman policy against the Tamil people. A series of public speeches then took place at the Vannan sports ground where, among others, one doctor Sivapalan told the crowd, "While Sri Lanka poses to the world as a model of piety and social justice, behind closed doors it carries out a merciless destruction of the Tamil people." He pointed out that the international community had been made blind to the desperation of the Tamils. "Where else in the world do people have to clamour like this just for the right to receive food and medicine?" he said. A number of recent independent surveys have shown that malnutrition and death from curable diseases is rife among the Tamil population in these areas as a direct result of the government's food and medicine policy. But since Sri Lanka also bans journalists from visiting these traditional Tamil areas in the north-east, news of these horrendous conditions and of the escalating anti-government protests, go largely unreported.

NO VACCINES FOR TAMIL CHILDREN

The triple-vaccine for Tamil children in Mullaitivu (Vanni district) has been out of stock for the last month with no sign of it reappearing. The Sri Lankan government continues to stop any medical supplies going through to the Vanni. Incidence of malaria, cerebral malaria, dysentery, typhoid and septicaemia in Vanni have shot up dramatically in recent months but with diminishing medical stocks most patients are turned away without the barest treatment. Doctors at Mullaitivu hospital say it may soon have to close altogether because the shortages are so severe.