Human Security, IDPs and Refugees, Peace and Conflict

Personal experience of the Vanni today

By Witness

On the 30th of September, I traveled to Kilinochchi through Oddusuddan, Puthukudiyiruppu. This is not the regular A9 road which we travel from Vavuniya to Kilinochchi. It is the road A34 which turns towards Mullaitheevu at Mankulam from A9.

Fortunately, this time I got a lift by an Ambulance from Omanthai; it is 70 km longer rather than the normal rout to Kilinochi. This time I stayed at Kilinochi. I had a discussion with several people including priests about the needs of our suffering displaced people. I agreed to arrange for the provision of the foodstuff for around 2,000 families.

I went to purchase foodstuff on the 1st of October to Kilinochi and Tharmapuram, but could not find such amount of foodstuff in both places. On the same day around 10.30am, there were aerial attacks just 1km away from us near the Kilinochchi hospital. Two civilians were killed and another 13 civilians injured due to this aerial attack.

Following day on the 2nd of October, a Cooperative Society agreed to provide foodstuff for the 2,000 families. In the same day, I saw foodstuff from 26 UN lorries being unloaded at Tharmapuram (out of the 51 lorry convoy to Vanni). I heard from the GA of Kilinochchi that the foodstuff from the 26 lorries would be enough just for a week.

While we were coming from Vaddakachchi to Kilinochchi on a motorbike, motorbike, we had a terrible and risky experience. An aerial attack took place just 200 yards away from us. Immediately we pushed off the motorbike and jumped into the drain and miraculously managed to escape from the attack. A few feet away, I found a piece of iron had fallen next to me on the road, but fortunately, I was not injured.

In the evening of 2nd October, Caritas Vanni – HUDEC and JRS, two Church based humanitarian agencies, who had remained in the Vanni even after INGOs and UN left on orders of the government, had to vacate Kilinochchi. The Catholic Church in Kilinochchi did likewise. Artillery and multi-barrel shelling that night made it fearful and terrible. We spend the whole night without sleeping and with fear of what will happen in the next minute. Despite all night shelling and multi- barrel attacks, the people were fleeing to the east of Kilinochchi area towards Mullaithivu by their tractors, two wheel tractors run by kerosene and cycle as well. The price of a liter of kerosene is Rs. 330.

Bank of Ceylon – Kilinochchi branch also shifted from Kilinochchi to Tharmapuram, but they were waiting for their mobile service from Vavuniya for money. During my stay there, the distribution of Tarpaulin sheets was done by our priests for the neediest people.

Following day on 3rd of October I left to Mannar by kerosene motorbike. While we were coming and approaching to Vaddakachchi I saw some people staying on the road and looking at the air. Then we too stopped the motorbike and joined them watching at the air the aerial attacks on Kilinochchi. And we also saw that people were flocking like cattle on the road towards the east of Kilinochchi area.

On the way to Mannar, I visited the HUDEC office which had relocated. They have started their work in the temporary shelter.

It was more than 20 days since they have received the last mail by post.

There is very poor attendance in the Vaddakachchi and Tharmapuram area schools due to fear of aerial attacks. People are unable to go for any work as they are being displaced continuously and facing lot of problems by the displacement. Food, water, sanitation and shelter shortages are the most critical problems that they are facing in their new displaced places.

Mannar and Kilinochchi priests are moving with the people and staying in the temporary huts with displaced people.

[Editors note – Also read A Short Note from the Vanni by the same author.]