Posted on June 19th, 2021


It is necessary to examine thoroughly the allegation that the government denied food and medicine to the Tamil population in Vanni during Eelam war IV. This is a lie, Sri Lanka never deprived the north of food and medicine, reported Shamindra Ferdinando. Even during the Vanni offensive they received supplies.

Never in the history of world has warfare had a government of any country provided food for thirty long years to people living in a territory that was controlled by the enemy, said Lt Col Anil Amarasekera.

As a party to the conflict the Government of Sri Lanka was not obliged to supply humanitarian aid in terms of food and supplies, though it did so, to areas under the control of the LTTE. This would sustain the conflict and be counter productive to the military objectives, observed Neville Ladduwahetty.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa had set up a Consultative Committee on Humanitarian Assistance (CCHA) in Oct 2006  to ensure essential supplies to the Northern Province.  This Committee decided on supplies to the LTTE held area. The CCHA consisted of government, diplomatic, NGO and INGO representatives. The Committee was chaired by the Minister of Disaster Management and Human Rights.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa  had included the following in CCHA:  the US (Ambassador Robert Blake), EU (Ambassador Julian Wilson), EU Representative (German Ambassador Jorgen Wert and UK High Commissioner Dominic Chicot), Japan (Kiyoshi Araki), UN (Frederick Lyons and Neil Buhner), UNHCR (Joanna Van Germen and Philippe Duhamel), UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Valentine Gatzinski, Zola Dowell), WHO (Dr. Agnostic Borra), WFP  (Taft Dick, Mohamed Salaheen and Adhnan Khan), Food and Agriculture Organization (Marc Bellemans), ILO (Tine Staermose), Country Security Advisor, UN Department of Safety and Security (Chris du Toit), European Community Humanitarian Office (David Verboom) and ICRC (Toon Vandenhove and Paul Castella). In addition to foreign representatives, CCHA accommodated Jeevan Thiagarajah and Firzan Hashim, both executive  directors of the Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies, to ensure   local participation, reported Shamindra.

 Gotabaya Rajapaksa, then Defence Secretary, said that no one had complained about shortage of food and other essential items. There were requests for zinc sheets, cement and iron.  CCHA minutes could confirm measures taken by the government to move required supplies overland and by sea. These minutes were available, verification could be made.   The minutes would also show that the UN and Western governments never complained about food and medicine shortage. ICRC also had clear records of the food and medicine the government sent in until the end of the war, noted Rajiva Wijesinha.

The Commissioner General of Essential Services had continued throughout the conflict to provide supplies in terms of the numbers agreed upon with the UN. A substantial amount of food and other essential supplies had been shipped to Puthumathalan, from February 10, 2009, to May 9, 2009, in accordance with a joint plan implemented by Sri Lanka and the international community. In addition the government had arranged to purchase vegetables  from farmers in the war area. Therefore there was more than enough food.

Supplies sent by the government were in accordance with the amounts specified by the UN. The Commissioner General of Essential Services had worked in   accordance with these figures, while also ensuring that extra medicines were sent. I have seen the medicines that were in the hospitals. Doctors who worked there, including those in the LTTE hospitals, told me they had adequate supplies including anesthetics, said Rajiva.  When Rajiva visited the north later on he found that there were stocks of unused medicine outside the hospitals.

There were deliberate obstructions to the supply of food. The senior UN official who had taken effective measures to store sufficient food stocks in the north was moved out and sent to Japan on a false pretext.

The Government was sending about 20 lorries each day with food, to the war zone, said Rajiva. LTTE had fired at these food convoys. LTTE also attacked two government   ships that had taken food to Jaffna. Bags of rice sent by the government were used by the LTTE to strengthen their bunkers in the NFZ,   said Anil Amarasekera. After the war we found unopened sacks of rice piled up, said Rajiva. 

Channel 4 said that there had been a deliberate denial of food. It  showed David Milliband claiming that only 60 tonnes of food was delivered to the  war zone between April 1st and 27th, 2009.  If so little food was sent in that period, then everyone would have been dead, observed Rajiva.

The Channel Four statement is incorrect, said Rajiva. Over 1,000,000 kilograms of food went through the ICRC into the war zone in April, 2009. There is a letter from the Commissioner General of Essential Services to the ICRC asking them to expedite delivery of the food he had got ready. That letter   mentions 1000 tonnes of food delivered in April.

Also, buffer stocks had been put in place. It is precisely because of this that so many of the displaced survived, and were able to make their way to safety. I myself saw bags of rice that had been used to make bunkers, which suggests that if there were shortages, it was not due to us, concluded Rajiva Wijesinha. (Continued)

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