Sri Lanka – Situation Alert and Update

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Dear friends,

I am sure you must be aware of the current “war” situation in our country. It began over the issue of a sluice gate of the Maavilaaru irrigation dam being closed by the LTTE on July 22nd, claiming their action was to draw attention to the needs of Tamil people living in the vicinity, in areas controlled by them (the LTTE). The Government sent in troops to re-open the sluice gate, claiming that negotiations to this end had failed. Heavy fighting between the Government troops and the LTTE resulted in what both sides called ‘humanitarian efforts’.

The resultant heavy fighting, air strikes, shelling and deliberate strategic displacement of people have created a huge humanitarian disaster. Initial reports indicated that nearly 42,000 families were displaced from and around Mutthur and other villages in the vicinity of Maavilaaru in the Trincomalee district. Nearly 100 civilians died in the cross-fire. The killing of 17 aid workers from the Humanitarian agency, Action Contra la Faim (ACF) in their Muttur office is one example. Efforts by humanitarian organizations to reach the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) were not successful due to the heavy fighting and road blocks. The need of the hour, as articulated by many of those displaced, was not material assistance, but an end to the fighting. However, repeated please by local groups and the international community calling upon both parties to declare a ceasefire were not heeded. After weeks of fighting and senseless loss of life, the controversial sluice gate was finally opened with each side claiming that they opened the sluice gate!

Since then, the fighting has spilled in to other areas, claiming many more lives; while both parties claim they are abiding by the Cease Fire Agreement (CFA). Although there is no official declaration of resumption of war, the fighting is very real and the CFA is confined to the paper it is written on. Even the capital Colombo is rocked by car bombings, suicide bombings and assassinations. The Deputy Secretary General of the Government Peace Secretariat was gunned down in his home. In another incident, on the 14th August, a car bomb exploded killed 7 persons. The High Commissioner of Pakistan narrowly escaped. In the early hours of that same day, in the LTTE controlled Mullaitivu area, 61 girls who were undergoing first-aid classes were killed in an aerial bomb attack.

While hundreds have been killed during the past few weeks, there are also thousands who are displaced. They are displaced into Vaharai (Baticaloa District), Sencholai/Mullaitivu (Mullaitivu District), and Allaipidy/Mandaithivu (Jaffna District).

The latest reports we have from Jaffna, say that thousands of families have taken refuge in schools, religious institutions and community centres of Thaalaiyadi (our program area for the boat project), Aaliayavalai, Uduthurai (in the vicinity of our housing project), in Jaffna and many other places. In Batticaloa, many thousands are displaced daily. This number is swelled by the displaced from Trincomalee District pouring in to Batticaloa in large numbers. In all, more than 100,000 people have been displaced in the last few days. They are in urgent need of food and medicine.

Since Saturday 12th August, telephone communication with the Jaffna District has been cut off. The A9 road which is the main access road to Jaffna (which passes through both the Government controlled areas and the LTTE controlled areas) has remained closed for the third consecutive day. We have lost communication with our staff based in Jaffna for several days.

Our regional offices in the affected Districts of Jaffna, Batticaloa and Trincomalee are our ready network through which we carry out our relief and rehabilitation efforts. We have temporarily suspended our rehabilitation activities. As an immediate measure to address the urgent needs of those affected, we have used up all our reserves and resources to provide emergency relief those displaced. We have already carried out our relief operations in Kanthalai and Muttur (Trincomlee District) in spite of the many challenges and limitations. Right now, our team leaders in Jaffna and Batticaloa are leading their teams to engage in systematic relief operations, using whatever funds are available in their reserves. We have appeal to potential donors for partnerships in carrying out this urgently needed relief work.

We appreciate your prayers and support.

In His service,

Godfrey Yogarajah.
General Secretary.
National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka.

16th August 2006