The Government of Australia has responded to Sri Lanka’s request for the assistance of international forensic experts to expedite the investigation of the killing of 17 local aid workers in Sri Lanka’s eastern town of Muttur during the recent unsuccessful effort by the LTTE to wrest control of the area. The aid workers were employees of the French non-governmental organization Action Against Hunger (ACF).

Judicial Medical Officers who conducted the post-mortems have submitted their report to the Magistrate and the bodies of the workers have been handed over to their next of kin. The Australian forensic experts who were expected to arrive in Sri Lanka today (August 9), will assist Sri Lanka’s Criminal Investigations Division (CID) and the Judicial Medical Officers to carry out the investigation.

Minister of Disaster Management and Human Rights, Mr. Mahinda Samarasinghe who briefed the media in Colombo today said that assistance had been sought under the direction of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Secretary General of the Peace Secretariat Dr. Palitha Kohona, the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Mr. Chandra Fernando and the Australian High Commissioner in Colombo Dr. Greg French were also associated at the press conference. Minister Samarasinghe is due to meet with the ACF Executive Director Benoit Miribel on Friday August 11, 2006.

Prior to this, on August 6, 2006, Minister Samarasinghe visited Kantale where 20,000-25,000 displaced people from Muttur are presently sheltering in 14 welfare centers. Most of the displaced people are unwilling to move to other school locations offered to them as they hope to return home to Muttur soon. The Minister has appointed a committee chaired by the Government Agent Trincomalee to handle coordination issues at a district level. The committee comprises six international members drawn from the United Nations Focal Point in Trincomalee, from UNICEF and Oxfam (for water and sanitation needs), World Food Program (food, logistics and supplies) and the UNHCR (shelter, care and maintenance, protection and protection monitoring, cooking utensils and building kitchens). Representatives from the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights, the Ministry of Relief Services and the Ministry of Resettlement are also included in the committee.

Meanwhile, water has now started flowing from the Mavil Aru sluice following military pressure brought on by the Sri Lanka government on the LTTE to open the sluice gates to end the humanitarian crisis created three weeks ago when the LTTE cut off water supplies to over 50,000 people and to 30,000 acres of paddy land in the area. The Government of Sri Lanka insists that the management of the water should return to its original status where the engineer of the Irrigation Department has unimpeded access to the sluice gate freely and safely to determine the water distribution at Mavil Aru. “Our concern is control of the water should be under the government,”' said government defense spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella. “If it is under the terrorists, as and when they want they can open and close it.”

Embassy of Sri Lanka
Washington DC

09 August 2006

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