ICRC told to leave North

By Leon Berenger

The Government has told the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to shut down its operations in the Northern Province, a spokesperson said yesterday.“We have been told by the government to cease all operations in this region at the earliest but no explicit time frame or deadline had been provided,” ICRC Information Officer Ms. Sarasi Wijeratne said.

The request to this effect came early this week, she said. No reason had been given either and ICRC officials would hold follow up talks with the Government later in the month, Ms. Wijeratne added.
She could not say which section of the Government had made the request but the ICRC had been told to perform its administrative work from the capital Colombo.

Media Centre for National Security spokesman Lakshman Hulugalle said he was not aware of any such request. “Although I have the mandate to speak on matters relating to the ICRC, in this case however, I am in the dark,” he added.

The ICRC currently maintains offices in the northern district of Vavuniya and in the Jaffna peninsula.
Last year the ICRC also closed down its operations in the eastern province following a similar request from the authorities.

The ICRC played a vital role during the height of the war when it was called in to facilitate the exchange of prisoners and dead combatants on both sides of the conflict.

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