Internally Displaced Persons’ Homes Are Torched

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TAMILNET reports that a fire at Poonthoaddam Refugee Camp in Vavuniyaa town last Wednesday destroyed 80 temporary sheds of internally displaced families.

No injuries were reported in the fire which broke out around 11.00am, according to the police.

Last month, on the 17th, a similar fire in the same refugee camp completely destroyed nearly 100 sheds.

There are more than 500 IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons) living in this camp.

Around 150 internally displaced families were rendered homeless on July 17 and were provided with shelter in a school due to a fire that broke out in the Poonthoaddam refugee camp No. 08 in Vavuniyaa town.

Seven huts in the camp were reduced to ashes, according to Government Agent C Shanmugam.

The fire broke out around 8.30am. Fire brigades of the Sri Lanka Army, Police and Sri Lanka Navy in the area rushed to the site and helped to extinguish the fire from spreading to other structures.

The Government Agent said his staff also rushed to the scene to provide assistance to the affected IDPs sheltered in Poonthoaddam camp. It had been suspected the fire was due to an electrical fault or from the kitchen, sources claimed.

Mr Shanmugam added that he has taken steps to provide clothes, food and other assistance to those affected.

Meanwhile, four children in a family displaced from Periya Pa’ndivirichchaan in Mannaar district due to Sri Lanka Army (SLA) offensives, and presently lodged at Ki’linochchi Mu’rippu School, were admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the Ki’linochchi Hospital Wednesday morning.

The children had eaten rice cooked on Tuesday afternoon for breakfast on Wednesday, hospital sources said.

The four children admitted to Ki’linochchi hospital are P Koneswari (12), P Puvithira (six), P Thayanantharajah (four) and P Kalki (18 months old).

The father of the children, V Puvenenthiran is originally from Pa’ndivirichchaan in Mannaar district.

Puvanenthiran was originally displaced from Pa’ndivirichchan with his family, and had first sought refuge in Madu, but was then forced to flee to Thadcha’naamaruthamadu and from there to Periya Madu.

Again, the family had to move to Ve’l’laangku’lam because of Sri Lankan Army shelling.

The next place of refuge to which the family fled was Aanaivizhunthaan in Ki’linochchi district.

The IDPs staying in temporary shelters in Aanaivizhunthaan, Vanneariku’lam and Akkaraayan Hospital surroundings had to flee again to escape being killed in SLA artillery barrage and rocket launcher fire.

The sixth place to which Puvanenthiran’s family had come to seeking safety from the SLA attacks on Tuesday is the Mu’rippu School in Ki’linochchi area where the children, out of hunger, had eaten rice gone rancid.

The SLA continues to launch artillery barrages since Tuesday 12.20pm on Aanaivizhunthaan in Karaichchi Divisional Secretary area and the entire IDP population staying there are now fleeing for their lives.

Also, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) in a press release issued on Wednesday demanded the Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa immediately intervene and order an end to Sri Lankan Labour Minister Mervyn Silva’s anti-media campaign.

This campaign of ‘interrogation and violence’ is being organised against Sirasa TV, a Sinhala channel owned by the Maharajah Organisation Limited, one of the largest privately-held corporations, in Sri Lanka.

‘Any encouragement of violence against the media is irresponsible and potentially life-threatening for journalists in a country that has long been considered one of the most dangerous for the media profession,’ the IFJ has said.

In December 2007, Mr Mervyn Silva stormed the offices of the Sri Lankan state-owned Rupawahini Corporation (SLRC) and allegedly assaulted its news director.

He was held captive and attacked by media workers inside the SLRC premises. Following that, there have been more than five attacks on SLRC staff and at least one attempted abduction.

The full text of the press release issued by the IFJ on Wednesday is as follows:

‘The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) demands immediate intervention by Sri Lanka’s President, Mahinda Rajapaksa, to order an end to Labour Minister Mervyn Silva’s anti-media campaign of interrogation and violence against Sirasa TV.

‘According to the Free Media Movement (FMM), an IFJ affiliate, Silva reportedly organised a protest by about 100 people outside the Sirasa TV station in Colombo on August 11 to call for a ban on the broadcaster.

‘Sirasa TV has consistently reported on a series of verbal and physical attacks by Silva against journalists, most notably a violent confrontation between the Minister and the news director of the state-run Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation (SLRC) in December 2007.

‘More recently, Silva assaulted Thushara Saliva Ranawaka, journalist, and Waruna Sampath, video cameraman, on August 4th. As they reported on a bridge opening in Kelaniya, Silva’s verbal threats against them were recorded on a camera, which the Minister then reportedly confiscated.

‘The FMM reports that none of the numerous complaints against Silva filed with the Sri Lankan police have been investigated “in any meaningful manner”.

‘The IFJ said that Silva’s attacks on Sirasa TV are highly irresponsible, especially in an environment where Sirasa personnel have been confronting alarming risks and challenges from several quarters throughout 2008, including murder, death threats, harassment and intimidation, slander, and obstruction by local authorities.

‘Silva’s openly malicious attitude toward the media and hate-inciting speech and behaviour is a gross disservice to the constitutionally guaranteed right to press freedom in Sri Lanka,’ IFJ Asia-Pacific said.

‘Any encouragement of violence against the media is irresponsible and potentially life-threatening for journalists in a country that has long been considered one of the most dangerous for the media profession.’