Vanni citizens committee slams block on reconstruction

[TamilNet, Monday, 28 January 2002, 05:11 GMT]
(News Feature) The Chairman of the Vanni Citizens’ Committee, Rev M X Karunaratnam, last week said the Sri Lankan government’s much publicized easing of its economic embargo on the region was “mere eyewash.” He said the Vanni region’s infrastructure was devastated and it was impossible to improve it by rebuilding, as the requisite materials were not being permitted.

In an interview to the Uthayan newspaper in Mallavi last week, Rev. Karunaratnam said “the so called lifting of the economic blockade on Tamil Tiger controlled areas of Vanni is mere eyewash; a political game of counting the numbers of lorries shuttling back and forth.”

“Judging by the way this easing of the blockade is being implemented it doesn’t appear to be able to realize its aim of creating a climate of goodwill”, he said.

Rev Karunaratnam asked “What’s the use in only lifting the economic embargo after razing much of Vanni to the ground over the past twelve years?”

“The people here have no buildings or structures to call home. There are no proper roads. Lakes haven’t been maintained. Hospitals, schools and markets do not function out of proper buildings. There is no furniture, or equipment. Government departments haven’t been allocated funds even to address these,” he said.

“In such a scenario, what’s the point in playing number games with lorries after claiming to have lifted the blockade? This is the crop season. Yet there are no facilities to store fertilizers. Farmers haven’t got the cash to buy the urea. Those who do buy have nowhere to store it.”

“The government hasn’t sent Vanni’s entitlement of development funds for two decades. But, the government has used its military machine and the embargo to destroy even the basic provisions of the people.”

“Without cash, without the basic tools, how can the people and organisations purchase the goods now being allowed through? The government should speed up the creation of a basic infrastructure here. It’s only after that will the lifting of the embargo will be of real use.”

“Two-thirds of Sri Lanka’s coastline belongs to the Tamil homelands. Yet the fishing community dependent on it has been left destitute. What are those fisherfolk, thrust into begging after being denied their livehoods, to do? First let them fish. Only if they are allowed to earn their livlihoods will situation return to normal.”

“During its occupation the Sri Lanka army filled culverts and built long defensive bunds, destroying the natural balance of Vanni. The region has suffered from severe flood during the recent heavy rains. Yet the second largest tank here, Vavunikulam, is not even half full; a fate brought about by the army’s earth bunds. The Sri Lanka army has littered the paddy fields from Puliyankulam to Omanthai with landmines. Farmers have been unable to work in their fields and many have ended up on the street.”

“Preventing the transport of essential items such as cement that is required for reconstruction and sending lorries is nothing but an attempt to create an illusion. Approve funds for housing, secure settlements, irrigation tanks, dams, schools, hospitals, roads etc and send the relevant goods to create basic infrastructure in those lorries.”


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