Tamils condemn ban on Annan visit to rebel areas

Hopes that the devastation wrought by the Boxing Day tsunami would see Sri Lanka's rival ethnic and political groups set aside their differences and rebuild shattered communities appear to have been dashed.

Tamils in the devastated north and east of the country reacted with fury yesterday after it emerged that the UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, would not be visiting the battle-scarred regions of the island.

And within the Tamil community there was bloodshed. A grenade attack in the town of Valaichchenai killed three people and injured 37 in a part of eastern Sri Lanka where international aid workers are helping tsunami victims, police said. It was thought to have been sparked by a row between Hindus and Christians.

But Tamils were united in their condemnation of the ban on the secretary general's planned tour of rebel-held, tsunami-hit areas.

The Tamil Tigers (LTTE) fought a 20-year war for independence from the Sinhalese-dominated south that claimed more than 60,000 lives. Relations remain tense despite a ceasefire three years ago. The Tigers had invited Mr Annan to tour their northern province but the government said that it could not guarantee his safety.

Yesterday, 400 people protested outside the UN High Commissioner for Refugees' office in Colombo, demanding a visit be made to the north to inspect tsunami damage. At least 30,000 people have been killed on the island and more than 100,000 are homeless.

The leader of the Tigers' political wing, S P Thamilselvan, said the move could have negative consequences for peace on the island and said that Mr Annan had agreed to visit rebel areas. Mr Annan told a press conference: "I'm hoping to come back and be able to visit all areas of the country, not only those repaired, but also to celebrate peace. The UN is not here to take sides. We are here to help all people in the country. This is a tragedy that has affected all people, that has transcended divisions that wrack your country."

The Sri Lankan government said Mr Annan's schedule had been planned in consultation with UN agencies in Colombo, "taking into account the security, programming and time consideration involved".

The dispute began after relations between the two sides deteriorated in recent days. The LTTE has accused the government of ignoring the plight of its people, while the government has claimed the Tamils have refused offers of help.

Last night the government was criticised by volunteers who have delivered aid to the Tamil areas. Thipa Moorthy was born in Sri Lanka but lives in London. He was moved to help the aid effort after seeing the devastation on television. He and five volunteers visited Tamil-dominated areas last week and say they encountered threatening behaviour from government forces.

"Not enough help is being given to these, the most devastated parts of the island. Most of the aid is coming from international agencies; the government is doing less than in other parts," Mr Moorthy said. "I am very annoyed that Annan is not making this trip. This is just another obstacle the government is putting in place that stops the rest of the world seeing exactly what has happened in the worst-hit parts of the country."

In an appeal delivered to Mr Annan, the Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies echoed his sentiments. The group said: "It is a matter of regret that the government has denied the rare opportunity to the internally displaced people living in the north to meet you and air their grievances."

President Chandrika Bandaranaike insisted it was giving the Tamil areas even more than their share of aid. She said her government and the rebels were working well together following the tsunami and claimed the advice against Mr Annan travelling was given because they could not guarantee his safety in a specific part of the north.

News
people
Sport
FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Sport
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
athletics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
music
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer Trustee opportunities now available at The Society for Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Volunteer your expertise as Tr...

Early Years Educator

£68 - £73 per day + Competitive rates of pay based on experience: Randstad Edu...

Nursery Nurse

£69 - £73 per day + Competitive London rates of pay: Randstad Education Group:...

Primary KS1 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam