Monday, January 10, 2005

What's Going On In Northern Sri Lanka?

SITREP 1/10/05 (Click above for affected areas)

Here are some recent developments. First Today's chart. An interesting point of some concern is that Sri Laka does not seem to be dedicating any resources (at least U.S. forces) to the north, home of the Tamil Tigers. This evening’s PBS report indicated the same & of course Kofi Annan was not allowed to visit. So there seems to be no information from the area. This could become the black hole of the relief effort!
A report on the use of LCAC hovercraft from the Bonhomme Richard. This is a sign we’re moving from the Fedex to UPS stage.

The Pacific Command daily brief has more information on the status of the hospital ship USNS Mercy.
Update 1/11/05 4:15 AM - Excerpt from front page article in the Wall Steet Journal ( subscription required) In Sri Lanka, Aid To Tamils Deepens Political Tensions
"Initially, there was hope the enormity of Sri Lanka's disaster could give fresh impetus to the peace process. Both sides' navies sustained significant losses from the tsunami, military analysts say, and there have been incidents of Tiger troops cooperating with government forces in relief operations.
But political tensions around tsunami aid are emerging. Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumarantunga -- who lost an eye to a Tiger grenade in 1999 -- was photographed shaking hands with rebel commanders in local newspapers soon after the tsunami.
On Saturday, however, Ms. Kumarantunga's government nixed an invitation from the Tigers to United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan to visit devastated Tamil districts. That touched off Tamil protests and prompted a diplomatic scolding from Mr. Annan."The U.N. is not here to take sides," he said.
Leaders of the insurgency say aid earmarked for them is being redirected to the majority Sinhalese population in the south -- a charge the Sri Lankan government denies. In fact, the president, Ms. Kumarantunga, and other government officials say the country is sending more aid to the north and east, where most of Sri Lanka's two million Tamils live.
Tamil expatriates' relief efforts are being coordinated through an agency called the Tamils Rehabilitation Organization. The TRO has offices in 14 countries, including the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Australia and the U.S. The TRO also oversees hundreds of medical clinics, schools and camps in Tamil communities in Sri Lanka -- many in areas controlled by the rebel Tigers.
Watch List
Following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the U.S., the Bush administration placed the Tamil Tigers on its list of terrorist organizations, citing their use of suicide bombers and political assassinations.
The terrorist designation bans the U.S. and international agencies from supplying cash or aid to the Tamil Tigers. The TRO, as a result, will need to show that every water bottle and bowl of rice it distributes is going directly to refugees -- rather than rebels -- if it wants to keep its status as a nongovernment organization.
The U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence is closely watching tsunami-relief operations, including TRO's work with the Tigers, people familiar with the matter said. The TRO says it is purely an aid organization, independent of the Tigers. The group says it will continue its efforts to deliver aid regardless of scrutiny.
"We simply don't have time to debate at this time," says Chandru Para-rajasingham, an Australian national who heads the TRO's office in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo. "There are too many lives at stake."
There are more than one million Tamils living overseas who consider Sri Lanka their original home. Many left because they felt the government discriminated against them, on racial and religious grounds. There are tens of millions more Tamils in India and other countries.
The Tamil diaspora network has helped the TRO execute one of the most effective tsunami-relief operations in Sri Lanka, say aid agencies and government officials. The TRO has deployed more than a dozen medical teams and scores of truckloads of supplies. It has raised more than $2 million."


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