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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
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

Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher A specialist primary school i...

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links