From my visit to Kantale I can say that Sinhalese people from Seru Nuwara Division are facing human security problems due to artillery and motor strikes from LTTE-controlled Vaharai area.
Also over 30,000 people in ‘Vaharai’ are under house arrest, because the LTTE is not allowing them to go to a safe place. The people are facing lots of problems. They don’t have enough food, medicine, education, government services and basic needs. Most of them are living in refugee camps.
Already, retaliation of government force to LTTE motor, artillery attack is affecting civilians. The situation is affecting both communities of Sinhalese and Tamils. On Dec 8 the LTTE started retaliating against government strike. On the first day a Sinhala school was targeted by artillery strikes where a teacher and a student were killed and over ten students injured. Regarding this issue, the students union is going to call a hartal in Kantale on Dec 11. Also O/L examination period is starting from tomorrow. The following day Dec 9, Serunawara, Somapura, and Kallar military camps were targeted by the LTTE.
Surrounding areas are also affected by the strike. Five people died (a civilian and four soldiers) and over 50 people injured. Among them 35 from the army. Much property was damaged.
Following that incident people from such affected areas were displaced to Kantale where they have moved into Akkarabothi Temple, old court building and relatives’ houses. Now there are 433 families (around 1350 people) registered officially; among them 10 serious pregnant cases and 4 to 5 minor injured cases. Some of them in homes of relatives. However unofficial statement says over 2500 people have been displaced from there own houses.
Now they face problems for basic needs such as shelter (tents), water, toilets and medical facilities. I also find there is chicken flue spreading among them due to the rainy season and lack of basic needs. Some NGO’s and Kantale people (Muslims and Sinhalese both) are providing cooked meals and other facilities to the refugees where possible.
It is very difficult to handle assistance because mobile phones were disconnected from yesterday in the Trincomalee district.
Also the government forces are retaliating against LTTE attack on 09th of December at Palchenai in Vaharai where six civilians died and over 10 injured (according to Vaharai hospital in charge P.Waratharaja’s statement).
However, the government and the LTTE have to consider civilian places and have to make arrangement for their security as much as possible.
The background to all this is that Vaharai is the heart of the eastern province for the LTTE. Because it is the main supply way for the eastern province from ‘Jaffna’ after they lost Sampoor to government forces.
Karuna’s faction has brought a major part of eastern Batticaloa under their control and the LTTE has been losing its control in the ‘Batticaloa Ampara Division, according to common opinion.
In the meantime the government forces think they can control the LTTE by controlling Vakarai. However, it is very difficult task because the main LTTE regiment (Jeyanthan regiment), military leaders (Shanthan, Sornam, Banu) are commanding and leading the LTTE in this region and artillery, multi-barrel ( recently moved to ‘Topigala’ LTTE base) base are here.
To capture the area the government will have to prepare a major operation with heavy arms and large number of forces. However, the government is under pressure that they defend the Sinhalese village in the Trincomalee district. Specially in the ‘Serunuwara’ division.
Field from Kantale, 12.30 pm Dec 10