Happy New Year greetings from Hong Kong! Thanks for responsing to our Urgent Appeals. We hope for the coming year you will continue the letter writings and other appropriate actions against Human Rights Violation.
Attached, below, is the REPORT ON FACT FINDING MISSION TO WANNI by a group of church people to the Tamil area in Sri Lanka..
We hope you have reponded to the URGENT APPEAL of the ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION on the Killings of 3 Tamil suspects in the Kulutara Prison some 50 Km from Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Please visit AHRC’s website: http://www.hk.super.net/~ahrchk to know about human rights situation in Asia.
Fact Finding Mission to Cleared and Uncleared areas of Wanni
Mr. A.N.Jeevajyothi – Director, Sri Lanka Churches child care association Rev. S. Jeyanesan – Board member of the association, Parish Priest, Batticaloa Rev. G.J.Gnanapragasam – Parish priest, Mankulam Mr. N.S.P Thampoe – Director for projects, jaffna Diocese of the Church of South India made this trip from 19th of November to 22nd of November 1997.
Earlier we attempted twice to make this trip, but unfortunately we couldn’t make it. Fortunately this trip was made possible by the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Vavuniya, Cheddikulam, Madu Church, Periya Madu, Vidathaltheevu, Velankulam, Thunnakai, Mallavi, Kokavil, Murukandy, Iranamadu Junction, Visvamadu, Tharmapuram, Akkarayankulam, Vannerikulam, Jeyapuram, Pallikudah, Pooneriyan.
The monsoon has set in. It started raining on our way to Vavuniya and all the way up to Madu road junction. It was very hard to drive. All the roads in Wanni are not maintained for years. Some trunk and by roads have turned to clay and muddy roads. And we witnessed many lorries with food stuffs stuck on the way.
a) The only bottleneck through which the vehicles can enter into Wanni at present is the Madu road junction. The pedestrians and the civilians can go only through Uyilankulam after being detained in Mannar for a day or two.
The total population living in Wanni is 485,000 people, out of which 300,000 are refugees and displaced people. The children under 18 years is estimated to be about 162,000.
Transportation is expensive and impossible task as few old damaged mini buses are commuting between the villages. Diesel and petrol are rare commodities in the Wanni region. To travel 10 km in such vehicles, people need to pay Rs. 70.00. As a matter of fact many people prefer to travel by foot or on bicycles for long journeys.
We witnessed the agony of the elders, and aged people who are a neglected lot. The young and the children are somehow managing to survive, but they are ignoring the elders. Because of severe poverty and hardships, in every junction and common places many elders are begging for food and suffering with diseases.
This war has made another adverse effect on the community which is the psychological impact of the war on many people. We identified many such people, particularly women wandering on the streets as we drove in the Wanni area. We are sure the invisible effect will affect the community in the long run.
As fighting is on from Mankulam to Kilinochchi, any moment A9 road will be occupied by the security forces and Wanni will be cut off further into two pieces. Now the situation as it is, Puliyankulam-Mullativu road, Mankulam-Mullativu road is impossible for movement. The only road way to Visvamadu and Mullativu is through Iranamadu junction, over the Iranamadu tank bund. If this road is closed 170,000 people who live on the other side of Wanni will be totally cut off from the rest of the Wanni land.
About 300,000 refugees are housed in various camps and temporary sheds are constructed in many places. UNHCR is maintaining some camps. They have given roofing to some families. Many huts were floating in water and destroyed by floods. We were told that one pair of Cadjan is costing Rs 4.00. Almost all the cadjan temporary huts were leaking so the people have moved to a forest area. Very few permanent structures are there. Even schools are run on temporary sheds.
There is scarcity of food items as lorries have not reached the Wanni area. Vegetables are exorbitant in price. As people were moving from place to place they were not involved in cultivation.
For example: Brinjals Rs. 120.00 per kilo Ladies Fingers Rs. 100.00 per kilo Long beans Rs. 90.00 per kilo Sugar Rs. 44.00 per kilo Rice Rs. 40.00 per kilo Coconuts Rs. 35.00 per kilo K.Oil Rs. 110.00 per kilo
People have no means or money to buy such basic items for their day to day living. We witnessed severe poverty and also noticed malnourishment among children. Some serious steps have to be taken to provide people with basic food items.
We visited Akkarayankulam Government hospital, Mission hospital at Tharmapuram, Dr. Ponnambalam Memorial Hospital at Mallavi. Many doctors shared their shortcomings. There is a severe shortage of all medicines including basic antibiotics, vitamins and minerals.
The doctors indicated that malaria, diorriah are the two main epidemics, which are affecting the people now. We saw many ladies and children sitting under trees and shivering. The drinking water is also a problem for the entire population.
We are very happy that ICRC, SLRC, MSF, OXFAM, CARE, UNHCR, SCF(UK), RED BARNA and SLCCCA are trying to do some service within their limitations and with all the constraints.
Immediate steps have to be taken to provide with basic medicines, vitamines, antibiotics and preventive medicines.
As we know children are the most affected sector of the community in any war. There is no difference in Sri Lankan war also. We have seen young soldiers in the Sri Lankan armed forces and in the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Someone correctly said “The only job opportunity readily available in Sri Lanka is fighting.” Whether Sinhalese or Tamil, they can immediately get the opportunity to join the Government Forces or with the Tamil Tigers.
There is no proper education available for the children, at least for the last 5 years. The teachers and the children are displaced in various places. No facilities are available for the children to study.
At homes no proper food is available. No vocational training or programmes is available for the school leavers and the youths. The only attraction is to join the militants and fight.
We are very happy the SLCCCA Child Care Programme is continuing without interruption. The Anglican Church of the Colombo Diocese, The Sri Lanka Methodist Church, Jaffna Diocese of the Church of South India, and the Navajeevanam Fellowship who are the partners in the Child Care Programme are rendering their services to the children and youth in the war torn areas.
Almost all the Homes and Orphanages are displaced and shifted to new places. Some Homes have moved 4 times because of fighting and army movement. The Churches have recognized the need to look after the children and the youth. We salute the services of some Clergy men and lay leaders who are responsible for these programmes and staying there in spite of all the adverse conditions.
Some Day Care Centers, Nutritional Feeding Centers have shifted from their original places and are being run with full capacity or with excess children.
For example, Samathanapuram Day Care Center at Akkarayan, on the 20th morning we visited there were 290 children with 9 staff. We see the future of our community in those children.
We are happy to furnish the numbers of children who are maintained by the SLCCCA in Wanni region:
a) The Residential Homes and Orphanages – 375 b) Day Care Centers – 450 c) Nutritional Feeding Centers -1200 Total Children cared by us 2025
When we returned we felt tired and awful after seeing the human suffering and the agony. Furthermore, our meetings with the people, NGOs and other relevant parties indicated that the present peace package is not going to be entertained or considered by anyone in that region.
As a result of this, it looks like the war is going to continue, rather it will escalate. That means the suffering and agony is going to continue. What is next is the question. How the government and the LTTE going to move from here? How are we going to move under such situations?
“How blest you are when you suffer insults, persecution and every kind of calamity for my sake”
“Whenever you did this for one of the least important of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it for me’