Vaakarai delegation meets army officer

[TamilNet, Saturday, 10 April 1999, 23:51 GMT]
A two member delegation from Vaakarai North met the Commander Officer of the 23-2 Brigade, Col. A. Alwis, yesterday to discuss the effects of Sri Lankan Army restrictions on food and medicine on the civilians in the northern part of the Batticaloa district.

The SLA 23-2 brigade based at the Valaichenai paper factory controls the northern Batticaloa district.

The meeting was co-ordinated by the Batticaloa office of the ICRC.

N.Gunalingam, principal of the Kathiraveli Vigneswara Viththiyalayam and M.Navaratnarajah, a principal from another school in Vaakarai, who were chosen to represent the civilians concerns, were accompanied by the ICRC's representative in Batticaloa, Ms.D.Caroline.

The CO told the delegation that the Northeast lagged 25 years behind the rest of Sri Lanka in terms of development.

The delegation told Col. Alwis that civilians travelling back to Vaakarai from Valaichenai along the coast were checked in four places along the 26 kilometre journey. At each checkpoint people had to open and then repack their provisions and then walk beyond the sentry carrying their heavy bags, they said.

Col. Alwis said that he could make arrangements to see that civilians travelling to Vaakarai from Valaichenai are not checked at two points.

However, he explained that if the Vaakarai bus goes into Naasaivan Theevu, an area not controlled by the SLA it will have to be checked at one of the points in order to prevent the LTTE from getting on the bus.

But this need not be a problem if the people of Vaakarai consent to go by bus through the Naavalady junction SLA camp he added.

The delegates raised the manner in which the SLA currently restricts and determines the amount of provisions each family can take home through the Vaakarai sentry to the northern parts of the region.

The CO said that if the delegates and the village officers in Vaakarai north prepare and provide a list of all the house holds in the region then the SLA would issue family cards that will enable people to take a reasonable amount of provisions two or three times a week without having everything measured and limited at the camp.

But the last date on which a person takes provisions on the family card will have to be registered with the Vaakarai army he said.

Col.Alwis asked the delegates to prepare a list of all the shops and their owners in Vaakarai north and submit it to him. He also asked them to form a committee along with the local village officers.

If the committee can guarantee to the army that a person in their region actually requires building materials then permission for a reasonable amount could be favourably considered. Currently there is an SLA ban on taking cement and other building materials to Vaakarai north.

The officer also told them that civilians in the northern parts of Vaakarai that are not under the army's control could buy batteries at the Vaakarai SLA camp after handing over the used up ones purchased earlier

The delegates had pointed out that nothing was done even after Batticaloa SLMC MP and deputy minister for Media, Mr.M.L.A.M Hisbullah, had taken up the same issues with the SLA earlier this year.

The CO however had told them that it is one thing when politicians intercede in such matters and when the army deals directly with the people to solve their problems.

The delegates returned to Vaakarai north to confer with the people there about the outcome of yesterday's discussion with the 23-2 CO. A government official who came from the area said that the people are keeping their fingers crossed.


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