Stranded to safety, from strife stricken Jaffna

ICRC brings stranded to safety from strife stricken Jaffna

Sunday, August 27, 2006

"My husband went to Colombo to undergo hernia operation. He wanted to come back to Jaffna after his operation. But the violence started to escalate and transport services stopped immediately without prior notice. Therefore he could not come to Jaffna. And we could not go to Colombo to see him. He wanted to see us, when he heard the news that, there is bombing and shelling in Jaffna. He was very worried about us. He passed away on August 24th 2006. He would not have died if we saw him. It's too late now. I am very sad that, I could not be near my dear husband, when he died" says Lalithadevi Alagarasa (49) from Puloly west, Point Pedro, who came to Colombo to attend her husband's funeral on Monday (August 28th 2006)

ICRC brings stranded to safety from strife stricken Jaffna

The people of North and East were forced to flee their homes. There are 204,602 internally displaced people since April 2006, according to the United Nations High Commission. And the UNHCR says more than 20,000 people have been displaced within a week. Nearly 44,000 people are affected in Jaffna peninsula due to the recent violence, according to the UNHCR.

The first batch of foreign nationals and aid workers were evacuated from besieged Jaffna today, August 2006, International Committee of the Red Cross. 161 passengers sailed to Trincomalee from Point Pedro by ICRC chartered "Serunuwara 2". They were boarded in buses from Sinhala Maha Vidyalayam in Jaffna , and were taken to Point Pedro on August 26th 2006. They boarded the ferry at 6pm on August 26 th 2006, and anchored at 2.30am on August 27th 2006 . They were brought to Colombo by buses in convoys with ICRC escort.

There are five thousand registered at the Jaffna Kachcheri to come to Colombo. But the ferry could accommodate only few hundreds, and the priority was given to the people who need immediate medical attention, foreign nationals, and aid workers. The International Committee of the Red Cross is in discussion with the authorities to continue the ferry service, but nothing is confirmed yet.

"I am shocked and sad. I have to carry out the funeral rites to my father sooner than expected. I did not expect my father to die suddenly. My younger brother and two of my younger sisters did not get a chance to travel to Colombo to attend our father's funeral. They are left alone in Jaffna. I am worried about them as to what will happen to them, when we are away from home" says a final year Management student of Jaffna University Alagarasa Nirmal (24) from Puloly west, Point Pedro who came to Colombo to attend his father's funeral

Passengers say that the journey was too long

"We got stranded in Jaffna. I went to Jaffna with my wife and children by air on August 9th 2006. We wanted to stay there till the end of August. But the fighting started suddenly. We could not get out of Jaffna. We witnessed the war in Jaffna. Our children were scared. Our family member in Jaffna wanted to make a way for us to leave Jafna immediately, before they started to think about their own safety" says Ponnuthurai Thavanathan (52) of United Kingdom, who is an engineer at British Telecom

"I have to undergo a bypass surgery. My doctor gave a medical letter to get a seat in the ferry to travel from Jaffna. I am exhausted. I have to undergo the surgery soon" says Ratnammah Nagaratnam (54) of Vaddukottai

"I am very sick. I have to undergo a kidney transplant. I am worried whether I will be able to go back to Jaffna, after the transplant, because of the escalation of violence there" says Mahalakshmy Kanagrajah (52) of Mannar. She was admitted at the Jaffna Teaching Hospital for further treatment

"We heard shelling. We went to Jaffna for a family reunion, and for Nallur temple annual festival. But we went to the temple very briefly when the curew was lifted. Curfew was imposed in Jaffna from August 11th 2006. The warring parties must have informed the civilians, if they wanted to start fighting wit each other. The innocent civilians got affected, when they started to bomb, shell and shoot. The civilians of Jaffna are suffering endlessly due to the recent violence. I have relatives still living in Jaffna. I am worried about them" says Premasutha Thavanathan (46) of United Kingdom, who is working as an Immigration officer at the Heathrow airport

"I have been to Jaffna earlier in 2004. But this trip was different. Because I could not go out that much due to the prevailing situation. I have been to the Nallur temple once this time.I have a bunch of cousins in Jaffna. I asked them, whether they like to come with me to Canada. They said that they do not want to come. I miss them, and I will think about them in Canada" says Sthyananthan Byran (12), a student from Canada, who visted Jaffna with his mother

"I want to go to Navaly next time, which is my dad's native place. I like to go to Uduvil Girl's College, where I have studied for a while in 2002, when I came. I have friends in Uduvil. I want to see them. This trip was different, because a lot of checkpoints are established, and people are being checked. I fell that, it's intimidating. I shall come back and visit Jaffna" says Shivam Suthendran (13) a student in Canada, who visited Jaffna with her mother

The expat Tamils who were stranded in Jaffna say that, they made a lot of new friends from the own village while waiting in the queues at the Jaffna Kachcheri for registration to leave the beseiged peninsula

"I went to Jaffna to attend a wedding. But the wedding did not take place, due the current situation. The bridegroom is in Jaffna, and the bride could not come to Jaffna from Colombo to get married on time. The undeclared war is so scary. I will not come back to Sri Lanka" says Santhirika Rajendran (47) of Canada, who is working for Tekinon.

"I have seen dead bodies on the roads. Nobody is sure of their safety in Jaffna. I left Sri Lanka in 1990 due the situation at that time. The situation is bouncing back to the earlier days. My parents are living in Jaffna. I have asked them to come and live in Colombo until I sponsor them to Britain" says Kanagarajasingam Rasavathanan (30) of United Kingdom, who is working at the Immigration office.

"I left Sri Lanka, when I was five year old. Ever since I was living in Germany with my parents until I got married. My parents are living in Germany. I now live with my family in Britain. I visited Jaffna after twenty one years with my husband, and two sons to see my father in law and mother in law. I have not been through the war experience. But this time I witnessed war in Jaffna. Curfew was imposed, not enough food stuffs available in the shops, long queues at shops and banks. I found it very difficult to manage with my two little children. The war is deadly. I will not come back to Sri Lanka" says Jeyadevi Rasavathanan (26), who is a Dutch national living in United Kingdom

"We thought to visit Jaffna, since there is ceasefire since 2002. But we never thought that, the fighting will start immediately. We got stranded in Jaffna for few weeks. Jaffna is completely cut off from the rest of the world. There is no power supply. The mobile phones do not work in Jaffna. People are displaced. We are lucky to leave. But where can the others go to seek shelter, because nowhere is safe in Jaffna" says Rajayogam Thayanathan(37) of Canada

"I was able to attend my mother's funeral, while I was staying in Jaffna. But there are many who could not attend to their loved one's funerals due to the current situation. People are living in fear and despair. People want peace, not war. We have suffered for more than two decades, as a result we lost many lives. Several left the country.We do not want to face the same situation. The ceasefire agreement should be implemented properly, violence and killings should stop immediately. Peace should prevail" says Kangalingam Thayanathan (43) of Canada

"We were scared, when heard shelling in Jaffna. We started to cry. We are afraid to come back" say Nila Thayanathan (9), and her younger brother Thusanth Thayanathan (5) of Canada