20th December 1998
Rations: the ludicrousness of logic
The PA has been reluctant to give food, medicine and other essentials to people displaced by the war in the Wanni since it began the 'war for peace' against the LTTE.
The government takes great political pride in asserting that it is more sensitive to the needs and concerns of the army unlike the UNP which, according to the idea the PA strives to propagate, had betrayed the Sinhala people by not supporting the security forces to the hilt and worse, supplying weapons to the enemy.
The army believes quite firmly that the food, medicine and other essentials sent to refugees in the Wanni is squirreled away by the Tigers for their own consumption with the connivance of scared government officials in the districts of Mullaithivu and Kilinochchi.
Therefore it was assumed that the population figures provided by the government agents of the Wanni district did not reflect the true situation in the region.
It was also argued, most probably on the basis of information provided by some Tamil groups, that most of the families displaced from Jaffna during Op. Riviresa that are now living in the Wanni are those of LTTE cadres killed in the war. (Maveerar Kudumbam).
The frustration over the delays of Op.Jaya Sikurui apparently caused the PA to take a tough attitude towards sending food and medicine to the LTTE dominated parts of the north.
Again, the fear was that the Tigers were sustaining their resistance by taking a substantial portion of the food sent to Wanni on the basis of false refugee population figures.
So in keeping with its nationalistic declarations, the PA drastically slashed the supply of dry rations by more than half to the people of the region in deference to the concerns of the army.
The government said that only those people in refugee camps run by the GAs would be given dry rations.
The move was also expected to impel the people of Jaffna displaced in the Wanni to go back and resettle in the peninsula. This was in July.
The Tamil parties protested in their customarily obedient manner.
A Satyagraha campaign against the cut was organised in the premises of the Mullaithivu and Kilinochchi district secretariats.
The Satyagraha protestors later barricaded the Kachcheries, preventing the entry of government officers from 10th August 1998 to 13th September.
The District Secretariat, Divisional Secretariats and Grama Sevakas' Offices in Mullaithivu and Kilinochchi were paralysed.
All this helped the LTTE make its point once again that the Sri Lankan government is bent on perpetrating nothing but dire calamities upon the Tamils. The desperate pleas of the GAs of these districts were, as usual, ignored. The Vavuniya government agent, K.Ganesh, said in a recent report
"As for figures furnished by the (Wanni) government agents, four hundred thousand people (in the Wanni) are eligible for dry rations.
However, in view of the dispute on the figures, the Commissioner General of Essential Services (CGES) approved dry rations (only) for 295,000 persons upto 30.6.1998. This number was (further) reduced to 193,163 from 1.7.1998 by the CGES."
In the LTTE dominated parts of the Wanni (excluding the district of Mannar) only hundred and six thousand people were granted dry rations. The Kilinochchi GA, T. Rasanayagam sounded desperate in his situation report for September 98,
"The third quarter of the year 1998, dominantly a period of woes, gloom and desperation, casting feelings of sadness and hopelessness, has been expressed (sic) by the displaced population due to drastic cut of dry rations by the CGES in view of the dispute of figures of displaced population."
Now all this is well known.
If the army's (and hence the PA's) theory were correct, the LTTE, deprived of the dry rations it was supposedly in the habit of siphoning off from the supplies sent by the government in its magnanimity to a section of it's citizens, should have faced a crisis in feeding its reserve military forces.
Let me illustrate the ludicrousness of this logic here.
In the Kilinochchi district, 34,381 displaced families comprising about 150,000 persons were entitled to dry rations .
The government cut this down to 8,889 families of about 40,000 people from 1.7.98. Assuming, as the PA did on the advice of the army, that the LTTE was taking away for its use dry rations sent for 110,000 non-existent refugees, the loss caused by the cut, when taken together with the reductions for Mullaithivu, Mannar and Vavuniya should have done irreparable damage to the Tigers.
But what happened? The Tigers destroyed the Kilinochchi base. And the new army commander has stated that the LTTE still has the reserve forces to attack the major camps of the security forces.
The army's argument that the LTTE is using dry rations meant for imaginary refugees clearly does not hold water if we are to go by Lt.Gen.Srilal Weerasooriya's observation.
The government's expectation that the food crunch would compel the Jaffna refugees to leave the Wanni for the peninsula also failed.
It is at this juncture that the government took the surprise decision to send the Commissioner General of Essential Services Mr.Obadage who is also the chairman of the Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority for the North (RRAN) to the LTTE dominated parts of the Wanni.
He toured the region, visiting personally the refugee centres meeting officials and people from various walks of life.
And during his mission he had discussions with LTTE political wing leader Thamilchelvan at Puthukkudiyiruppu.
He returned on December 11.
Since then the supply of dry rations to refugees has been increased by 52,000. (Kilinochchi by 20,000, Mullaithivu by 30,000 and the LTTE dominated part of Vavuniya by 2,000. Nothing has been stated about Mannar). The CGES is expected to visit the Wanni again.
Tamil analysts who have inevitably grown cynical about the government's approach to the Tamil problem were inclined to see a political motive behind Mr.Obadage's mission to the Wanni.
Such an impression is unavoidable when one considers the fact that the PA has always made it a point to show that it puts the interests of the army over everything else where issues in the northeast are concerned and the fact that the PA has to face the general elections this year.
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