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Sri Lanka turns back Tamil aid ship

[AFP, Monday, 8 June 2009 10:54 One Comment]

Sri Lankan authorities Monday ordered a foreign-owned ship carrying aid for Tamil civilians to leave the island without unloading its cargo.

The Syrian-registered ship, Captain Ali, was seized last week, and the Sri Lankan defence ministry said the cargo of food and other supplies had been destined for the now defeated Tamil Tiger rebels.

"The ship had tried to enter Sri Lankan waters without following the proper procedure," an official said, but added that a search of the vessel confirmed it was not carrying any arms or ammunition.

The organisers of the mission, Mercy Mission to Wanni, said on their website that the goods were meant for Tamil civilians caught up in the decades-long conflict.

An Icelandic national, Kristjan Guomundsson, who had served as one of the monitors of a truce between Tamil Tigers and troops between February 2002 and January 2008, was also aboard the Captain Ali.

The mission’s website admitted the voyage may have violated international shipping and port safety procedures.

"If this is the case and the non-Mercy Mission persons responsible for this compliance did not fulfill their responsibilities and handle these matters in the appropriate, professional manner, Mercy Mission apologizes," the website said.

The supplies, donated by Tamils living abroad, were loaded on to a ship in the British port of Ipswich in April — just weeks before the government declared victory in the ethnic conflict.

According to the group’s website, the materials were then ferried from England to the French port of Fos-sur-Mer. From there they were loaded on to the Captain Ali on May 7.

The mission was organised at a time when Tamil Tiger rebels were cornered in the island’s northeast along with tens of thousands of civilians. The ship was originally due to travel to a coastline that was then under rebel control.

Government troops announced they had crushed the Tigers after killing the rebel leadership on May 18.

[Full Coverage]

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One Comment »

  • arul said:

    let us help our people…..
    please change your attitude…..don’t kill all 300k Tamils with your ego