|Humanitarian services to the North|
|Friday, 14 November 2008|
This status report was prepared by the Peace Secretariat in the context of continuing claims of a humanitarian crisis in the North of Sri Lanka caused by the Government. In fact, it is the LTTE that is trying to precipitate a crisis, which the Government has thus far avoided through close attention to the needs of the people.
Ongoing Government services to people in the NorthThe Government has always been committed to the well being and protection of the people of the country irrespective of ethnic and religious backgrounds or place of residence. Thus, those living even in what are termed 'uncleared' areas, i.e. those controlled by the LTTE, were provided with the same free services as those in the rest of the country. Public health and education are available to all throughout the country, and food and welfare services to some depending on need. These services are provided through a civil administration which has throughout been financed by the Government. This includes capital and recurrent budgets, covering salaries as well as pensions to those in the 'uncleared' areas, who remain in close contact with relevant line Ministries. The heads of the District Administrations, the Government Agents, communicate special needs and travel regularly to Colombo along with their counterparts, as also to special meetings concerned with current needs.
The Government has throughout ensured adequate supplies of food and other goods (excluding those limited because of security concerns) to the Vanni, as well as to Jaffna. Concerns about IDPs, and the free food the Government sends them with the assistance of the UN, meant that the regular supplies the Government facilitates for commercial purposes are forgotten. Yet the Commissioner General of Essential Services has throughout ensured that several lorries with food for sale, mainly through the Cooperatives, go into the Vanni each day. During the last few years, prices in the Vanni have remained stable. It should be noted that there has been a mark up because of taxes the LTTE has imposed.
Disruption of supplies to Jaffna began in August 2006 when the LTTE, in civilian guise, attacked troops at the checkpoint on the A9 road leading northward to the Jaffna peninsula. Though that attack was repulsed, albeit with heavy loss of life, the A9 was then closed at that point, and Government had to ensure supplies by sea. The LTTE had, shortly before that, attacked a vessel carrying SLMM monitors, who had then withdrawn from naval monitoring. This was followed by the LTTE insisting on the withdrawal of monitors from Scandinavian countries in the European Union, which led to massive downscaling of SLMM operations, including the issuing of rulings on violations - to the relief of the LTTE, which had been found guilty of 3,830 violations, whereas the Government had been found guilty of just 350 over a five year period.
The Government asked the ICRC to provide safe passage for supply ships but, after one successful run, the ICRC found that guarantees were withdrawn, so it could no longer comply with the Government request. Superhuman efforts by the Commissioner General of Essential Services ensured that supplies were maintained, in spite of LTTE attacks on two supply ships, including a Jordanian one. Prices shot up at that stage, and retaining the confidence of suppliers was not easy, but CGES succeeded, with the assistance of the Navy which had to protect the supply ships, which meant that manpower to deal with the LTTE itself was curtailed. A measure of the success of the Government operation can be seen in the UNHCR report on welfare centres, issued in December 2007, which made it clear that all goods in the basket it used were available, and most of them including essentials were affordable.
The welfare of civilians is a foremost consideration in Government plans to liberate the North. Sri Lankan forces have the best record in the world currently of troops engaged in the struggle against terrorism. Civilian casualties in the course of combat continue minimal, and Government agencies monitor any alleged incidents carefully. Apart from regular reports from Government Agents, the Peace Secretariat monitors all sources, including LTTE websites, and requests explanations of any allegations.
Over the four months since the struggle in the North intensified, there have been allegations of just eleven civilian deaths due to airstrikes, of which there were a total of almost 200.
With regard to civilian deaths due to Army activity, though allegations are less easy to monitor, there have been fewer than a dozen allegations in the last four months. The most publicised was a claim that the Mullaitivu hospital had been targeted, belied by the Government Agent's report (as well as that of the UNHCR) which reported that shelling was aimed in a radius of one kilometre from the District Hospital, and that one shell landed in the compound of the Hospital. The GA reported that one child of 1½ years died in the incident. Significantly, when the incident was reported to the UN in Geneva, the age had changed.
The Government has therefore continued to provide free food and other supplies to the displaced according to figures given. Whilst initially IDPs were housed in schools, this had to change when the school term began, so shelter too has been provided as best possible, along with water and sanitation facilities. Some of the NGO staff who were not allowed to leave have been working under the GAs and their experience has also helped to alleviate the situation. At the same time, the yeoman service of the GA and his staff, who have been working despite cadre shortages, cannot be underestimated.
Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process
(Courtesy: Sri Lanka Peace Secretariat- SCOPP)
|Last Updated ( Tuesday, 18 November 2008 )|
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