|Government to send food to people in the Mullaitivu No Fire Zone|
|Wednesday, 18 February 2009|
Mahinda Samarasinghe, Minister of Disaster Management and Human Rights, addressing international media at a briefing on Tuesday (February 17) said that, in accordance with a directive of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the Government has decided to dispatch food and other essential items to those persons forcibly held by the LTTE who are at present in the No Fire Zone on the Mullaitivu coast. Providing details of the shipments, Commissioner General of Essential Services, S. B. Divaratne said that two Ports Authority tugs have been allocated to carry essential food and medical items. The first tug carrying 46MT of Government food supplies left Trincomalee on 17 February. A further 100MT of supplies (food and essential medicine) will be shipped on the Government passenger ferry chartered by the ICRC to Puttumattalan on Thursday (19). This process will continue in order to provide people with necessary supplies. It was pointed out that these supplies are in addition to a total of 2,695MT of food supplies sent into uncleared areas during the month of January.
Referring to numbers of IDPs, Minister Samarasinghe explained that almost one third of the IDP figures provided by the Government Agents have, in many instances, been found to be duplicates, with as many as 20,000 families being double-counted in the Kilinochchi District alone. The convoys which carried food into uncleared areas from October 2008 catered to inflated figures of 230,000 IDPs. The number of IDPs in the No Fire Zone has been reduced by a further 35,686, as these persons have escaped the LTTE and sought refuge in Government controlled areas in the past three weeks. Minister Samarasinghe added that the Government is of the opinion that the IDP population in the No Fire Zone is, at present, less than 100,000.
In response to a question as to the ownership of the ferry carrying patients, Mr. Divaratne informed that this ferry is a Government passenger vessel that has been ferrying people from Trincomalee to KKS for years. Upon a request of the Secretary to the Ministry of Defence, the ferry has been chartered by the ICRC and is being used to transport patients and other civilians from Puthumattalan in the No Fire Zone to Trincomalee. Minister Samarasinghe said that the Government is appreciative of the ICRC's effort in facilitating the movement of people to safety and will continue to cooperate with the organization in carrying out its work.
Secretary the President, Lalith Weeratunga, said that the religious leaders and some in the diplomatic community had called upon the LTTE to lay down arms but to no avail. Foreign Secretary, Palitha Kohona, said that, while all efforts are being made both locally and by the international community to pressure the LTTE into permitting civilians to move to safety, the response to these calls by the LTTE has been deafening silence.
Dr. Kohona referred to a statement on 16 February made by the UN in Sri Lanka pointing out that the "LTTE continues to actively prevent people leaving, and reports indicate that a growing number of people trying to leave have been shot and sometimes killed." A strong statement issued by the UNICEF Representative on 17 February says that there is "clear indications that the LTTE has intensified forcible recruitment of civilians and that children as young as 14 years old are now being targeted. These children are facing immediate danger and their lives are at great risk. Their recruitment is intolerable."
Responding to a question as to whether the advancement by the military has slowed down, Minister Samarasinghe said that in order to safeguard the lives of the civilians, the military is taking utmost precautions when carrying out their operations.
Minister Samarasinghe also revealed that, on the instructions of the Secretary to the President, a committee headed by Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha, Secretary to the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights has been appointed to look into the activities of national and international NGOs working in the spheres of human rights promotion and humanitarian assistance. The Minister stressed that the exercise was not intended as a "witch hunt" but as a process which would seek to assess the accountability of agencies working in Sri Lanka at present with a view to ensuring transparency and accountability of their operations in the future.
The media briefing was chaired by Minister Samarasinghe. Associated with the Minister were Secretary to the President, Lalith Weeratunga, Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Palitha Kohona, Secretary to the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights, Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha, Commissioner General of Essential Services –S. B. Divaratne, Director General for the Media Centre for National Security, Lakshman Hulugalle, Director International Media and Policy Research of the Presidential Secretariat, Lucien Rajakarunanayake and the Military Spokesman, Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara.
18 February 2009
|Last Updated ( Friday, 09 October 2009 )|
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