July 1, 2011/ By Shamindra Ferdinando
Responding to ‘Channel 4 News’ allegation that the government of Sri Lanka had deliberately denied food to those trapped on the Vanni east front during the final phase of the Vanni offensive, navy headquarters yesterday said that the a food ship reached the North less than a week before the LTTE collapsed on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon on May 19, 2009.
Navy headquarters spokesperson Commander Kosala Warnakulasuriya told The Island that four vessels, Sinhabahu, Green Ocean, Binhtan and City of Dublin had been deployed to move 2361.315 MT food items from Trincomalee to Puthumathalan, where the LTTE made its last stand. The SLN spokesperson said that food shipments were made from Feb. 17, 2009 to May 14, 2009 as the army fought its way into rapidly dwindling area held by terrorists.
WFP-led overland food convoys came to a halt on Nov. 23, 2009 as fighting escalated on the Vanni east front. According to Presidential Task Force for Resettlement, Development and Security in the Northern Province, the WFP carried 12 overland food convoys beginning Oct, 2008 to Jan 23, 2009, before heavy fighting forced a halt to overland supply convoys.
Commander Warnakulasuriya said that supplies to Puthumathalan from Feb 17 to May 14, 2009 comprised wheat flour (1095 MT), dhal (273 MT), vegetable oil (92 MT), sugar (97 MT), medical items (3.5 MT), samaposha (1MT), cerelac (1.05 MT), sprats (1 MT), green gram (2 MT), rice (698 MT), pumpkin/carrot (19.21 MT), potato (05 MT), cone soya beans (29.92 MT), chili powder (1.4 MT), coriander (0.7 MT), salt (3.25 MT), Cummins seed (0.7 MT), pepper seed (0.7 MT), soya (2 MT), T leaves (2.50 MT), garlic (3.50 MT), milk food, medical, clothing and other items (21.13 MT), b onions (05 MT) and other items (1.765 MT). The Puthumathan bound cargo included 12,600 litres if kerosene, 720 litres of patrol and 274 litres of 2T oil, the official said.
The official said that in spite of fierce fighting, the government went to the extent of facilitating the evacuation of those sick, wounded and helpers from Puthumathalan to Trincomalee and Pulmoddai from Jan. to May, 2009. Responding to a query, the SLN spokesperson said that the ICRC had spearheaded the evacuation programme, which bought 12, 820 persons out of Puthumathalan in Green Ocean (12,663) and Seruvila II (157).
There couldn’t have been a similar evacuation operation in any part of the world during a large scale military operation, the Commander said. He pointed out the absurdity in allegations that the military had deliberately targeted civilians and then allowed the wounded to be evacuated by the ICRC from Puthumathalan to Pulmoddai, where the government of India stationed a medical team to treat the sick and the wounded.
Intelligence sources told The Island that some LTTE cadres could have taken advantage of the evacuation plan to reach safety. Although the military had been concerned about the possibility of some terrorists escaping the advancing army, the government continued tthe operation until last possible day to save lives, sources said.
The SLN spokesperson said that those evacuated by the ICRC would be able to tell those gunning Sri Lanka on the human rights front how hard the government strived to evacuate the sick and the wounded. Apart from them, SLN units deployed off Puthumathalan had rescued hundreds of Tamils fleeing in boats and moved them to safety, he said.
Commenting on food supplies to Jaffna during eelam war IV, Commander Warnakulasuriya said that due to loss of overland main supply route, all requirements of the military and civilians in the peninsula and the Jaffna islands had to me moved by sea and air. In spite of heavy commitments on the war front, the government moved 478,126.563 MT of food cargo from 2007 to 2009 for civilians living in the Jaffna district. The official said that throughout hostilities since mid 1990, successive governments ensured that people living in Jaffna received adequate food stocks, in spite of the absence of overland supply route