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FeaturesNewsUN-Sri LankaDebating numbers, killing lives: UN and Government differences emerge

Debating numbers, killing lives: UN and Government differences emerge


The Island newspaper continues to publish leaks from the report produced by the Panel appointed by the UN Secretary General to look into post-war accountability in Sri Lanka. Groundviews has covered in detail the Executive Summary and Parts 1, 2 and 3 of the leaks.

The Island published today Part 4, which focusses on the significant discrepancies between the United Nations and the Government on estimating the number of civilians trapped in the Vanni during the final stages of the war, and how this numbers debate resulted in horrific ground conditions.

As before, we provide context and background information to frame these highlights. In addition, we flag concern over the fact that when the Doctors reporting from the Vanni were detained, many reports suggested that the UN did little or nothing to secure their release or safety. Links to the reports filed by the Doctors to the media are included, as well as articles on the media events staged in Colombo where they, under pressure from Government, retracted their submissions.

We also flag the point that the UN Panel’s report does not seem to have taken into account (though the official report may well have) the testimony given by the Doctors to the LLRC in November 2010, where they specifically note that the figures they reported from the ground were, under duress from the LTTE, inflated. They go on to reiterate however the shelling, and the horrific ground conditions. Finally, we flag a Wikileaks report that confirms the Doctors from the Vanni had been pressured by Government to revise their stories.

    “Throughout the final stages of the armed conflict, particularly from January to May 2009, the Government downplayed the number of civilians present in the LTTE controlled area, using the low estimates to restrict the amount of humanitarian assistance that could be provided, especially food and medicine.”

    “The United Nations estimate at the time was 250,000 (although its subsequent estimates were higher). Later in January 2009, the Ministry of Defence said that the number of civilians present in the Vanni was between 75,000 and 100,000, “on a high estimate”, However, the Government had more than sufficient information at its disposal during the final stages of the armed conflict to accurately estimate the actual number of civilians in the Vanni.”

    “At the end of February 2009, the United Nations Country Team informed the Government that, in its view, there were 267,618 civilians present in the LTTE controlled area, basing the estimate, in part, on UNOSAT Quickbind and Worldview satellite images, used to count the number of IDP shelters. ”

    “As a result of the Government’s low estimates, the food delivered by WFP to the Vanni was a fraction of what was actually needed, Resulting in widespread malnutrition, including cases of starvation. Similarly, the medical supplies allowed into the Vanni were grossly inadequate to treat the number of injuries incurred by the shelling.”

    “Given the types of injuries sustained in the second NFZ, the doctors requested medical supplies such as anaesthetics, blood bags for transfusion, antibiotic, surgical items, gloves and disinfectant. Only a small quantity of these items was allowed into the Vanni. Instead, they received items such as Panadol, allergy tablets and vitamins. As the casualty figures rose in March 2010, the absence of the needed medical supplies imposed enormous suffering and unnecessarily cost many lives.”

    “On 19 March 2009, the Secretary of the Ministry of Healthcare and Nutrition replied that only strong painkillers and intravenous fluids could be dispatched, since Mullivaikkal Hospital did not have trained anaesthesiologists.”

    “Despite Its access to first-hand information regarding the size of the civilian population and its needs, the Government of Sri Lanka deliberately used greatly reduced estimates, as part of a strategy to limit the supplies going into the Vanni, thereby putting ever-greater pressure on the civilian population.”

For the article with more info: Groundviews

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