Top Govt. team provides immediate relief for Mannar victims

President Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday dispatched a high-level team to Mannar for talks to restore immediate normalcy in the wake of the Pesalai incidents last week.

The team held a conference in Mannar where a series of relief measures were immediately decided. However, their efforts to visit Pesalai were foiled after Tiger guerrillas directed fire at a picket that was clearing the road for their travel.

The team that flew in an Air Force helicopter comprised Presidential Secretariat Chief Basil Rajapaksa, representing the President, Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle, Felix Perera and Chief of Staff of the Navy Rear Admiral Sarath Rathnakeerthi. Among the measures they ordered were:

*Lifting the ban on fishing in several areas except two including Pesalai. A committee was named to meet today to explore lifting restrictions in the remaining areas.

*Issue of dry rations and the payment of compensation for those affected.

Instructions were issued to the Navy to immediately enforce the fishing ban. The team is said to have found fault with the Government Agent, Mannar for not taking action to provide dry rations to those affected. An immediate payment of Rs 10,000 was made to persons affected whilst a balance of Rs 40,000 is to be paid by next week.

The team wanted to seek a meeting with Mannar Bishop Rt. Rev. Rayappu Joseph. However, he was reported to be in Colombo.

Following clashes between the Navy and the Sea Tigers on June 17, five civilians were reported killed in Pesalai. One was reported to have died inside the Church of Our Lady of Victories in Pesalai whilst four others had died near the beach. Already a Government investigation is under way to ascertain how they came by their death.

The team’s inability to proceed to Pesalai led to arrangements being made for fishermen’s society members and leading citizens in Pesalai to come over to the Navy camp. There, the team recorded representations made to them and assured that President Rajapaksa would be apprised of their needs. They were also briefed on the immediate measures taken.


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