"March For Medicine" - Huge Vanni Protests

Place: Vanni | Courtesy: TamilCanadian
| Date: 19970108

Many thousands of Tamils across Vanni district have handed over petitions to OXFAM, MSF, CARE and ICRC after mass protests yesterday. The demonstrations, massively attended in Mankulam, Mallavi, Thunnukai, Pandiankulam and other neighbouring areas, was the Tamil people's way of condemning Sri Lanka's food and medicine ban to their areas. 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.