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Sri Lankan politics interupts aid -

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Sri Lankan politics interupts aid

AM - Thursday, 13 January , 2005 08:18:14

Reporter: Gillian Bradford

ELEANOR HALL: Politics is preventing food getting through to some people in Sri Lanka's tsunami
refugee camps.

Tens of thousands of Tamils who lost their homes in the east of the country are complaining they're
not being treated as well as the majority Sinhalese.

And yesterday the Government ordered one of the big aid distributors, the Tamil Rehabilitation
Organisation, out of a refugee camp, leaving thousands of people short of food.

Gillian Bradford reports from Sri Lanka's east coast.

PREM SURANATHAN: We came here yesterday and there was a perfectly working system.

GILLIAN BRADFORD: Australian doctor Prem Suranathan and his colleagues are getting more exasperated
by the minute.

PREM SURANATHAN: There are 4,000 people here waiting for food and we now have no mechanism to
distribute food.

GILLIAN BRADFORD: Government Special Forces have forced the Tamil aid agency to leave this refugee
camp here at Thirukovil. And now there are 4,000 hungry people scrambling for what food is left.

PREM SURANATHAN: Even some aid agencies which have come here volunteering food supplies and so on
have been turned away by the special taskforce.

GILLIAN BRADFORD: So the TRO, the Tamils, were told to take their food with them?

PREM SURANATHAN: That's right. That's right. Which is not a situation that the people want. The TRO
is the one that's been looking after them ever since the tsunami disaster and even before.

GILLIAN BRADFORD: So there's a bit of chaos now on the ground?

PREM SURANATHAN: Yes, yes, I mean as you can see all around you.

GILLIAN BRADFORD: The helicopter from the Indian army approaches and the people in the camp run
towards it. There used to be enough food to go around but now without the Tamil relief agency, the
people don't know when they'll get their next meal.

(Man speaking in background)

This man says it's the Tamils who've been giving them food on a daily basis, and he wants the TRO
back in the camp.

The Sri Lankan Government has told the world it has this emergency aid crisis well in hand. It's
already talking about rebuilding roads and railways in the south around Galle.

But here on the east coast where many of the people are Tamils, things are moving more slowly. Some
of that is because it's much harder to get to this part of the country but there is also politics.
There may be an uneasy truce between the Government and the Tamil Tigers, but the wounds of a
20-year war haven't healed.

Dr Prem Saranathan is just angry so many people are still suffering when there's so much help being

PREM SURANATHAN: In the Tamil affected areas like Thirukovil and Akkaraipattu earlier, the basic
needs, food, water, sanitation are not being provided. That seems like a huge discrepancy, but that
is Sri Lanka unfortunately.

GILLIAN BRADFORD: So here on the ground you are seeing politics in action?

PREM SURANATHAN: Oh of course politics, medicine, everything is quite intertwined.

GILLIAN BRADFORD: So some of these people are not getting basic food and medicine because they are

PREM SURANATHAN: That's right, yes. Yes. It's an unfortunate situation but that's the way it is.

ELEANOR HALL: An Australian doctor in Sri Lanka, Dr Prem Suranathan, with Gillian Bradford.