JVP allegedly hijacking food convoys
By Asif Fuard
JVP activists wearing red t-shirts, red caps and badges – with the words 'JVP relief services force', the JVP star symbol and in the center of which is a red cross – were seen collecting goods and medical items to be distributed among tsunami victims.

JVP volunteers are operating mainly in southern areas such as Galle, Matara, Hambantota and Tissamaharama. According to reports, the displaced people are unaware that some of the food items and medicines given to them by JVP volunteers have been allegedly 'hijacked' from relief convoys sent by various groups.

It is alleged some vehicles carrying relief were redirected into JVP stores. In one case, vehicles were diverted to the New Imasha film hall in the Hambantota town, instead of a Government store 5 km away. New Imasha film hall owner Nimal Kularatne said he did not know that the JVP was this food storage point for alleged political mileage.

"I am also doing relief work for tsunami victims. Some people calling themselves Sahana Seva Balakaya asked for my theatre to set up a medical centre. I did not know that the JVP was behind this and party members would put up banners all round my film hall," he said.

Mr. Kularatne said they wanted the hall for five days but were now staying on longer and he had heard some were watching films also in the theatre. At this film hall we saw vehicles from JVP collecting centres were coming and storing goods.

Most of the vehicles belong to ministries of JVP members, but they now carried JVP banners. A resident alleged that aid lorries coming from Matale to Hambantota were stopped JVPers and the drivers were told to put up JVP banners. If they refused, the drivers were assaulted and the vehicles hijacked.

Among the Ministerial vehicles used by the JVP were a bus bearing number JK-0194, tractors bearing numbers 49-6145 and 49-9623 and a lorry bearing number 253-3506. Despite the JVP having several collection centres and warehouses, we found that several refugee camps did not receive aid from the JVP relief service force but from other groups.

The JVP-run Tissamaharama Pradeshiya Sabha Chairman's coordinating secretary, S. Seneviratne, said 200 houses were being builts and would be completed within the next few days to give shelter to the displaced people and stocks would also be given to them.

The Sunday Times has also received reports, which say the JVP is trying to be the sole relief group by preventing others providing help and aid. With the JVP apparently trying to monopolise aid distribution in the south, a serious incident also took place at Goddauda in Dickwella, with JVP allegedly asking the army to withdraw from a refugee camp.

JVP Deepal Gunesekara siad besides members from the south, hundreds of JVPers from districts not affected by the tsunami had volunteered to work in the south. He said the party was operating some 12 medical centres for the refugees and 30 centres to collect goods in Hambantota.

He said party workers had cleared the rubble and would now start building houses for the fisher folk. At a time such as this when our brothers and sisters have come forward to re build our country we have kept politics aside and have stepped out to serve the affected people in their time of need," Mr. Gunasekara said.

Refugees shattered, receiving little or no aid
The displaced people in the eastern province are also facing a situation similar to the one faced by those living in refugee centers in the south. Even here the JVP is reportedly diverting food relief convoys to locations specified by them, instead of allowing them to be unloaded at government authorised centres.

The JVP volunteers wearing red shirts and red caps were seen to be involved in relief activities in refugee camps set up at the Jayasumanaramaya in the Trincomalee town which houses most of the refugees from Sirimapura and Abhayaramaya. Sirimapura a fishing village was washed away by the killer tidal waves. Some of the refugees said they are yet to receive food, clothing or soap even after several days in the camp.

The refugees held the JVP responsible for this situation charging that the needy were receiving little or no aid while those not in need received most of the benefits. It was sad and unfortunate to see refugees desperately queuing up for food being ignored when close by several three wheelers were seen nonchalantly transporting food parcels.

"We were sent by Trinco district MP Jayantha Wijesekera here. We refute the charges made against us as false. We are doing a solo job and no state help comes here. The government must intervene or soon these relief measures will cease. All we need to do therefore is to save whatever relief we get now", Indika Priyadharshana, a JVP relief worker said.

Rev. Sooriyagoda Piyananda Thera the viharadhdidpathi of the Sooriyaramaya temple who had brought relief items from Galenbindunuwewa confirmed the allegations leveled against the JVP. "These people are trying to boost their image and are not interested in real relief work. What we brought here too has been spirited away by outside elements in our very presence. People are disenchanted with this type of relief work", the Thera said.

World Solidarity Conference, Sri Lanka branch joint patron Rev. Mahagalkadawala Punyasara Thera was emotionally moved when he said:

"The relief that should be given to the refugees are getting into wrong hands and we ourselves saw it happen. Some refugees unable to see this display of selfishness are giving away their meals to other more deserving victims. Both organisations are attempting to boost their image and we decry this mentality".

Another relief organisation from the Wayamba said the JVP took over the distribution of the relief items they donated. This organisation said that if they had earlier known about this JVP interference they would have not brought the relief items there in the first place.

These matters were highlighted at a provinicial council meeting held on January 4 at Wayamba where SLFPers of the Sandhanaya and Oppositon UNPers condemned this attitude by the JVP.

Top  Back to News  

Copyright © 2001 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd. All rights reserved.