Sri Lanka bans international agencies from aiding Tamil refugees

Place: Tamil Eelam | Courtesy: The Toronto Star
| Date: 19951100

"While Sri Lanka's army fights to crush Tamil rebels, it's battling on another front against foreign relief workers trying to care for 400,000 war refugees. The refugees, including hundreds of wounded civilians, are caught behind the civil war's front line. Western relief agencies accuse the military of blocking desperately needed aid. Tight restrictions are preventing the delivery of drugs, tents and blankets as well as equipment to build latrines, said frustrated aid officials, who spoke on condition they not be named. ...

"About half of the 400,000 Tamil refugees are living and sleeping outdoors in heavy monsoon rains, said Gerard Peytrignet, who heads the International Committee of the Red Cross here. The rest are holed up in churches, schools and relatives' homes. The refugees have very little food or proper sanitation, he added.Doctors are already seeing cases of dysentery and eye infections, and while cholera hasn't struck yet, the conditions are perfect for a deadly epidemic, relief workers warned.

"Sri Lanka's military won't let journalist cross into areas controlled by the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Relief workers are so afraid of making the government angry, they refuse to photograph or shoot video of the refugees suffering and smuggle the pictures out to reporters.

"The war-zone's few hospitals are dangerously low on anaesthetics for surgery and several drugs essential to stopping the spread of diseases and treating war casualties, relief workers said. Few were willing to criticise the government publicly because they are afraid it will shut down their relief operation in retaliation.......'I think they don't want an International presence there to witness what's happening,' a senior Western relief official said.
Source:(The Toronto Star, November 5, 1995 By Paul Watson Asian Bureau)

" Sri Lanka has banned international agencies from aiding Tamil refugees over fears that some are not impartial. We do not intend to permit any outside agencies, including the carry out independent operations", said Foreign Minister Laksham Kadiragamar. He also expressed displeasure at the appeal made by UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros Ghali, whom he accused of exaggerating the situation. Tens of thousands of Tamil refugees are fleeing a government assault on the Tamil Tiger stronghold in the north."