SLA clamps total embargo on Vaakarai
[TamilNet, Tuesday, 27 February 2001, 08:55 GMT]
The Sri Lanka army clamped a complete embargo on the Vaakarai region, 60 km. north of Batticaloa, Tuesday, preventing people from taking even essential goods such as rice, sugar, milk powder, kerosene, flour etc., which were permitted under severe restrictions on supplies to this region earlier. Soldiers at the Maankerni check post, currently the sole entry point to this large poverty stricken area in the northern corner of Batticaloa, seized all goods in the possession of civilians going to Vaakarai Tuesday morning, mostly their weekly and monthly provisions allowed in limited stipulated quantities by the SLA, purchased in Valaichenai. "I spent almost all my weekly wage on basic provisions for my family. Now I have neither money nor the provisions," lamented Manikkam Thangarasa, a wood cutter from Vaakarai who returned to Valaichenai Tuesday afternoon all the food stuff and kerosene he was taking home was seized by the army at the Maankerni check post.
Thangaraja said he came back to borrow money from relatives to buy whatever food that might be available in Vaakarai although there are no grocery stores in this once rich farming and fishing village.
All grocery stores closed up after the SLA clamped a harsh embargo on this region five years ago.
There are more than sixteen villages in this region. The coast and hinterland north of Maankerni and the government Cashew farm are controlled by the Liberation Tigers. The local population is about twenty thousand. Most live below poverty line, dependent on government handouts.
All the civilians who set out this morning from Vaakarai to buy provisions in Valaichenai turned back at Maankerni upon being told that the army was seizing all provisions. Only a few patients bound for the Valaichenai hospital arrived by the morning bus from Vaakarai to Valaichenai.
Soldiers at the SLA's Maankerni check post dumped all the provisions seized from the civilians by the roadside but collected the small quantities of kerosene they confiscated from them in a barrel, a patient from Vaakarai who came to the Valaichenai hospital this afternoon told TamilNet.
The real reason for the SLA clamping a complete embargo on the Vaakarai region is not yet clear, a Police source in Valaichenai said. "This is not a retaliatory act because there hasn't been any confrontation between the army and the Tigers in the area for some time" he added.