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NGOs consider withdrawing from Vanni as Sri Lanka tightens restrictions

[TamilNet, Saturday, 24 July 2010 09:08 No Comment]

Some International and Local Non-government organizations (NGOs) serving in Vanni consider leaving Vanni as Sri Lanka government’s restrictions to stay and serve in Vanni are tightened. Permission from President’s Task Force (PTF), headed by SL President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s brother and Sri Lanka Minister, Basil Rajapaksa for NGOs has been a prerequisite to assist the war affected people in Vanni. In addition to this now Sri Lanka government requires the NGOs serving in Vanni to obtain permission from Sri Lanka Ministry of Defence (MoD) and renew same monthly if they wish to be in Vanni and serve its people, a representative of a local NGO in Vanni said.

Meanwhile, NGO circles allege that the above additional restriction on International and Local NGOs has been imposed by Sri Lanka government in the wake of SL Minister Wimal Weerawansa’s protest fast in front of the Sri Lanka UN office in Colombo.

Obtaining permission from PTF itself is a difficult process due to undue delays caused by PTF, sometimes for months, as their applications have to be forwarded through Government Agents where the NGOs want to work.

Having secured PTF permission with great difficulty the NGOs are now required to obtain additional permission from SL Ministry of Defence every month. It is tedious work to submit afresh the names of persons working for the NGOs each month, the NGO representative said.

Besides, the NGOs have to further obtain the permission of the Area Sri Lanka Army (SLA) Commander and the Regional SLA Official to serve in Vanni.

The NGOs in Vanni feel that the additional MoD permission is unnecessary to serve the needs of the war affected people of Vanni and consider limiting their service in Vanni.

Meanwhile, the assistance of these NGOs to the people of Vanni is all the more essential as Sri Lanka government does not provide the resettled Vanni people with any considerable help, the NGO representative further said.

Sri Lanka government allows only World Food Programme to assist people in Vanni with dry food while freezing the funds of other help organizations serving Vanni people.

UNHCR and UNOP are allowed only to take their goods to Vanni people in convoy of vehicles escorted by SLA soldiers and these vehicles have to leave Vanni on the same day. Only some of the UNOP officials are allowed to stay in Vanni.

Moreover, Sri Lanka government is yet to permit UNICEF to serve or its officials to stay in Vanni.

Some of the international NGOs allowed to serve in Vanni include CARE, BRC, NRC and local NGOs allowed include Seva Lanka, RDS and ZOA.

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