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Open Letter to Ban Ki-Moon – sangam

[MISC, Tuesday, 3 November 2009 09:19 No Comment]

We got squeezed in the 700 square metre area on the 16th of May. There were thousands of people around us. Heavy fighting was going on all around us. On the seashore, about a kilometre from us, the Sri Lanka Navy and Army were executing a joint operation and had landed on the shores. They were firing grenades and cannon shells. To our back, the army was advancing less than six hundred metres from us. The people were caught in the less than 1 square kilometre area with Army positions to the front and the Nanthi Lagoon to the other side. Everyone was filled with the fear of death.

Mr. Ban Ki-moon
Secretary-General
United Nations
Two United Nations Plaza
Twenty-Seventh Floor
New York, NY 10017

Dear Honorable Ban Ki-moon,

I write this as a plea to the United Nations. This is a voice for the voiceless people who are being held in the internment camps in Northern Sri Lanka. I was one of the many people who was in the so-called “Safe Zone” as the Sri Lanka Military advanced against us, who believed and hoped that the United Nations would come to protect us during the final stages of the war. Many of those are now dead. Some are still alive and asking for your support. I am one of the lucky ones to be alive.

I was one of those who went tent by tent in the final few square kilometres of the safety zone to get letters signed by families affected in the shelling. I explained to them that these will be sent to the United Nations, who will help them if it gets to the United Nations before their Security Council meeting on the 29th of April. April 29th was one of the dates that the people waited for, holding on to their life with the hope that some change will occur in their lives. It didn’t and the death continued.

To be frank, I risked my life to get those letters signed for you. So did many other volunteers who did the same. We went tent by tent, explaining to them that we are sending letters to the United Nations. We gave them hope that there is a world body to represent the voiceless. Our hope was all wasted. Their hope was all wasted. If you don’t act now, you will never be forgiven. A small child, as young as 2 years old, will remember what happened and and hate the international community for years to come. You can be assured.

SafeZonespring20092 As the chaos hit its peak, I decided to go and help out at the hospital. It was better to die doing something helpful to others than die for nothing. There wasn’t a day when a child would not be carried to the hospital by the child’s relative. They would cry and beg for the child to be treated and given life, but it would be too late by then. The child was already dead. This was a daily occurrence at the hospital. Were these children “terrorists”, to be subject to such a horrific fate, only because they were born Tamil in Sri Lanka?

I was at the hospital helping with the night shift one day and a father came running with his child. He said ‘please save him’. The child was motionless. He was dead. He had gotten up to go to the bathroom when the shell hit him. It was completely random and reckless.

Another day, a few men came running, holding their friend in their hand. They all cried. "Please save him. We would do anything for him. Please save him." A bullet had hit his chest coming from very far away, fired by the Sri Lankan Army indiscriminately towards the small strip of land where all the civilians were concentrated. We had to crouch down to walk every day, as bullets screamed past our heads.

On May 3rd, I was sleeping in a tent with a doctor who worked in the hospital. She was deeply committed to helping the people amidst the heavy shelling. She woke up and was ready for work at 6:30 am. Her motorbike would not start and I had to push it for her to make it start. She said good-bye and left. Shells hit the Mullivaaikaal hospital when she was working in the theatre and she was killed in it, along with more than thirty already-wounded civilians. One of them was a child, two and a half years old. I saw him the previous day when I worked in the hospital. He sounded very angry and restless since no one was giving him water after the operation. He had lost one of his legs and was still trying to survive. Now, he was dead in the shells that fell on the hospital premises. He was a child, not a terrorist. These were Tamil civilians who were desperately trying to survive.

SafeZonelateMay2009BanKi-Moonflyover We all lived with the hope that some foreign nation will come to help us, to carry the wounded, to take care of the dead and bury them. But no one came. Everyone was left to die, left on the roads where they fell.

We got squeezed in the 700 square metre area on the 16th of May. There were thousands of people around us. Heavy fighting was going on all around us. On the seashore, about a kilometre from us, the Sri Lanka Navy and Army were executing a joint operation and had landed on the shores. They were firing grenades and cannon shells. To our back, the army was advancing less than six hundred metres from us. The people were caught in the less than 1 square kilometre area with Army positions to the front and the Nanthi Lagoon to the other side. Everyone was filled with the fear of death. There were people scattered everywhere. Some were still inside tents aligned along the Mullaithivu Paranthan Road. Some were sitting in groups under buses and lorries parked on the road. Firing came from both sides, from the Sri Lankan Navy at the Mullivaaikaal seashore and from the Army at the front lines in Karaiya Mullivaaikaal,. Everyone was cornered, with no way to escape the constant shelling and gunfire.

EscapingSafeZoneMay20092

We got to the end of the LTTE-controlled area and were about to enter the no-man’s zone if we walked another twenty metres. People were lined up on the path leading to the Tiger position in their effort to escape the firing from the army. The Tigers were of the hope that some foreign nation would come help the wounded civilians and cadres. That was never to happen. A friend and a father of two children came running towards us and said that the people have started to move and that we should join in with them. People looked at each other in silence. We were going into Army-controlled areas. Many people who had went in previously had been striped naked and been harassed. We did not know what would happen to us in the Army territory. But we had no choice but to go. The floor was slightly grassy with little thorny bushes near it. Vadduvakal is itself a barren land with the Nanthi lagoon on one side and the ocean on the other side. We could not see far since it was the front lines and we could only see people or barren land or large abandoned vehicles.

We, along with the rest of the people, had not had good food in months. We had been living on rice and lentils for more than two months now. I could hardly walk. There were dead bodies on both sides of us. There were dead bodies floating in the Nanthi Lagoon. Bodies of innocent Tamil children, men and women. Is there a god? That was the question that lingered in me. We moved on through large trees and mainly forest areas as soldiers or groups of soldiers popped out from behind the trees with rifles, to watch the movement of the thousands of people, children and elderly. We walked several more kilometres. Both sides of the road were mostly secondary forests with Army men. We saw three army tanks pulling in through the lines. We were asked to walk for a while, then sit down on command and then get up and move forward on command. I was exhausted and near collapse. I was only thinking about moving forward in the line as much as we could. At one point, the army demanded all the people to sit down. The people were frightened and emotionally uncontrollable and tried to move forward as much as they could. They still feared for the safety of their lives being close to the front lines. We could hear shells leaving artillery tanks towards our back. Most people, even children as young as two and three years old would say "kuthiddaan (he has fired)" at the sound of mortar firing and would run inside the bunker for safety as it fuses and bursts in four to five seconds. It had become such a usual part of their life that the little children were able to distinguish between the sounds of RPG, Fifty, AK/PK, mortar and artillery shells. Is this the life a child should have?

We were not able to move further but we put all our energy and mental strength into it. Others were carrying wounded people, their relatives and friends in stretchers. Some were wounded themselves but were able to walk and they carried other wounded people. The people were moving silently now. They had no energy left. They were all hanging onto their final bit of strength to overcome their grief and pain. I saw people crowded around the water vehicle pushing each other to get a little share of the water to save their family from dehydration. Some men had gotten on top of the vehicle and opened its cover. They were immersing their large water cans to be filled. Some were begging for water and some like me were standing there hopeless.

I am safe now. I have a place to sleep and I have my family to discuss my feelings. All I ask of you is to give everyone the same. The ability to sleep and eat, and live peacefully with their families. Is this too much for Tamil civilians to hope for in Sri Lanka?

Regards,

Anonymous

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