Land master tractors, push cycles and lorries packed with belongings moving along the main roads and dusty tracks towards Kilinochchi are common sights these past few weeks as the security forces continue their advance into LTTE-controlled areas.
Schools, government buildings, temporary sheds under trees and open spaces are currently accommodating the influx of the displaced putting pressure on UN agencies, international and local non governmental agencies. About a month ago the displaced number stood at 125,000 but now with the recent operations the number has swelled to 175,000.
|Refugees on the road to Kilinochchi
“The World Food Programme was issuing rice, flour, dhal, sugar and oil, but now that the number of displaced has risen we are only distributing rice as the stocks supplied to us are insufficient,” Kilinochchi’s Government Agent A. Vedhanayagam said.
“We are expecting more supplies within the coming weeks, but we are not sure when exactly the food convoys would come,” he said. He said although there were food supplies in Multi Purpose Co-operative shops, the displaced people did not have the purchasing power due to lack of income.
Many of these displaced are farmers who have now been forced to leave behind their crops which were ready for harvesting.
In addition to the food distribution problem the supply of drinking water too has suffered due to the limited fuel quota issued to the GA thereby curtailing the number of bowsers used for water distribution. The problem has been further aggravated by the prevailing dry weather that has affected water tanks and irrigation schemes.
The influx of the displaced has also put pressure on the Kilinochchi Hospital with more and more patients streaming in. Earlier the peripheral hospitals in the respective areas were handling these patients, but with civilians now moving out of their villages, the main hospital has been forced to accommodate them. The ongoing military push has forced hospitals in Thunukkai, Pallamadum and Mankulam to close down.
Director Health Services, Dr. T. Sathiyamoorthy told The Sunday Times that many children suffering from respiratory problems caused by the swirling dust were seeking treatment. In addition there were those who had been traumatized by the sound of exploding shells and air strikes.
“I was in Colombo last week and I discussed the present crisis with the Health Ministry secretary Athula Kahandaliyanage and explained the need for more medicine. He has assured that he would look into the needs,” Dr. Sathiyamoorthy said.
|Refugees living under trees in makeshift camps
He said that the curtailment of diesel supplies to the hospital has affected its smooth functioning as they are forced to operate generators in the absence of electricity to the area. He said power supplies are restricted to 18 hours a day.
Meanwhile, the Defence Ministry claimed that the LTTE was using civilians as human shields. A spokesperson for the ministry said LTTE policemen and women were conscripting civilians as the outfit was fast running out of man power.
The Defence Ministry claimed that the LTTE was restricting the movement of civilians to cleared areas while forcing residents in Nedunkerny, Chemmalai, Alampil, Nayaru, Mankulam, Vallaipadu, Jayapuram, Kiranchi and areas between Puliyankulam towards uncleared areas such as Oddusudan and Puthkudrippu.
With the north east monsoon expected in September authorities fear further problems as the displaced would have to vacate schools which resume in the first week of next month.
LTTE forcibly conscripting civilians: Defence Ministry
With the military steadily gaining control of LTTE strongholds in Kilinochchi thousands of civilians caught up in the fighting in uncleared areas maybe heading for more harrowing times.
It is reported that the LTTE has begun coercing civilians and moving them to the Welioya area. According to the defence ministry civilians are being used to construct bunkers and other defences in the area.
They are also being prevented from moving into cleared areas, as the outfit is running out of manpower they say.
Meanwhile there have been two reported cases of suicide related to forced conscription by the LTTE. One was from the village of Vattakachchiya where a mother had committed suicide by taking poison after her two daughters who were forced to fight for the LTTE were killed within three weeks.
In another incident a young man from Piramandankulam who resisted attempts by the LTTE to conscript him was reportedly assaulted by his LTTE abductors. Fearing reprisals, the young man had committed suicide by swallowing poison.
These reports come in the backdrop of troops of the 57 Division of the army operating in the Mullaitivu Eastern Front taking control of Tunukkai and Uyilankulam towns on Friday. These areas had been under LTTE control for more than 25 years.
“The gain of Thunukkai is advantageous to the security forces positioned in clear striking distance of Mallavi, another vital terrorist garrison along the Vellankaulam- Mankulam main road,” the Defence Ministry said.