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Jaffna heading towards "silent death"

A group of priests in Sri Lanka has written to let the outside world know about the "isolated, unknown and silent death" of many people on the Jaffna Peninsula.

The priests are ignoring curfews to answer the humanitarian need.

In a letter passed on to Eureka Street by Australian Jesuit Provincial Fr Mark Raper, the priests say that at least 90 civilians were killed in a six day period earlier this month, by aerial bombing, shelling shooting and crossfire. More than 150 have been wounded. There has been at least as many non-civilian casualties.

About 25,000 people are internally displaced and are living in churches, schools, public buildings, and even under trees on the streets. They are unable to move to secure places due to curfew and restriction imposed on the people by the Security forces. Around a thousand people from the small island of Mandaithevu refuse to receive the relief from the humanitarian agencies. Instead their urgent appeal is to locate them in a secure place in the Peninsula.

The  people from the cetnres Vadamarachi and Thenmarachchi are facing a high threat to life due to lack of mobility, shelling, curfew, and lack of food and medicine.

"All the supply roads to Jaffna are cut off and we are dangerously running short of essential goods like food, medicine and fuel. Shops are becoming empty; looting has started and within days starvation will be the destiny of the people of the peninsula," says the letter, which was signed by Oblate priest Fr J.J. Bernard, who is Director of the Centre for Peace and Reconciliation in Jaffna.

"The Security Forces continue to impose curfew only with a very short break in rotating manner to different areas which prevents the people from moving towards safer areas. Such curtail on the movement of the people is to use the people as human shields against the LTTE attacks.

"It takes hours to take the wounded to near by hospitals that are unable to meet the needs of the injured due to short of staff, lack of medicine and other facilities.

"The governmental and the non-governmental organisations are unable to organise themselves because the relaxation of curfew that last for two  hours is hardly enough to buy even the  essential items for themselves and for their families.

"There is only a half an hour of electricity service one after the other day, limited telephone service, no water supply, no removal of garbage and subsequently deterioration of health and hygienic disaster.

"The air is full of blasting noise due to the heavy firing of artillery and multi barrel shelling from thickly populated civilian areas which are also situated in the close proximity to the Jaffna teaching hospital. As a result a devastating situation is created by which children, women, pregnant women and the sick are affected adversely. This creates a real terrorising situation and the people are becoming increasingly panicky and tensed.

"We are heading towards an isolated, unknown and silent death. Are we going to be a people forgotten? Not cared for? Is the World going to keep silent now and count on our bones from mass graves to sit on judgment? How will the international community especially the European Union, Co-Chairs, and Peace envoys of Norway and Japan be indifferent when innocent, unarmed, people are systematically decimated."



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