This is an email I sent to a few friends. England is abuzz about this Vanni Mercy Mission to send a ship to Sri Lanka with aid. They’ve even got a letter of support from M.I.A. On their site they list the UK government and celebrities as dependencies, but no mention of the Sri Lankan government. This leads me to think this is just a PR stunt, because you have to work with the government of a sovereign nation to land a ship there. This is very cynical because the problem is real. You simply cannot antagonize the government if you want aid to actually reach people. I fear that’s not their goal at all, I think they just want to have the ship turned away to make a point. It’s so sad, because the suffering is very real.
I’m working with a group of citizens called ACT for Relief (www.actlanka.com). We have some lorries leaving Friday (God willing) to the Vavuniya Hospital. We’ve raised a bit of money and collected mattresses, crutches, medicines and basic supplies. This is only possible because we have worked closely with the Ministries of Health and Defense. That is the only way to get goods into this country and the only way to deliver them to the people at the end. It is difficult and frustrating, but necessary. You have to compromise to actually help people.
This Vanni Mission does not mention the government of Sri Lanka as a stakeholder at all. I disagree deeply and publicly with the government and I did not support this war. However, it is still my government and this is still my country. It doesn’t matter if Claudia Schiffer is on the prow of the boat, you simply cannot land in a sovereign country without permission. Certainly not in a warzone. I honestly believe that they want the ship to be turned away to score PR points. This is really sad, because if they want to actually help human beings they have to compromise.
Please remember that the human suffering is real. I visited children brought to a government hospital in Colombo and it’s just tragic. I saw a boy named Ketesh who’s a double amputee. Couldn’t be more than three years old. Another child had burn wounds all down his chest and couldn’t stop shivering. They are doing triage in the North on a level we simply cannot imagine and they’re lacking basic items like surgical gloves, bandages, painkillers, anti-biotics, etc. I think this is a humanitarian tragedy just like the tsunami and we should extend just as much support to our fellow Sri Lankans.
These Sri Lankans don’t need politics, they need relief. I think it is important to remember that they are being treated in government hospitals and helped by government people while the LTTE is simply firing on them and conscripting them as cannon fodder. You simply have to work with the government if you want to help human beings right now. I don’t like the government much, but I’m quite willing to put that pride aside for now. If you want to make a statement you can call the government genocidal maniacs and throw a party, but it doesn’t actually help anyone. That’s really cynical, and really sad.
There are people in Sri Lanka who are trying to reach out to our fellow citizens in the North on a human level, working with whoever we have to, apolitically. There are no gala events because that jeopordizes the actual, delicate work of delivering relief, but do know that people are doing something. You can help. I’ve cc’d an ACT representative, and you can help through there. Please note that’s just a group of concerned citizens. Sarvodaya is a reputed NGO and you can donate online to them here (sarvodaya.org/donate). Sri Lanka Red Cross also accepts donations via their bank account. These are donations that actually reach people.
Here’s an excerpt from their email appeal. The last line especially is a joke. Like, that’s the most important thing?
The launch event of the Mission of Mercy Aid ship to Sri Lanka will take place on Tuesday 31 March, 2009, from 1:00 pm at The Royal Horse Guards, 1 Whitehall Place, 2 Whitehall Court, London SW1A 2EJ. To view, please visit http://www.theroyalhorseguards.co.uk/index.html).
A global appeal to the Sri Lankan Government to let the aid into the affected region and to call a ceasefire will be launched on the same day. A launch event has been organised to allow celebrities and politicians to sign a special letter (scroll) of Appeal.
The latest news is that the Sri Lankan Government is threatening to sink the boat! (http://www.island.lk/2009/03/21/news2.html) Come and hear more at the meeting.
We welcome any and all media to attend the event.
Supermodel Claudia Schiffer will be attending.
As a note, I know Arjunan [the guy who sent this mail and seems to be organizing this thing]. He’s the former spokesperson for the TRO, the LTTE’s NGO wing. I know him and we fight about his support for LTTE as ‘the’ Tamil representatives. If you look at the related organizations, they’re holding maps where that land isn’t Sri Lanka at all, so I suppose they think it’s all right to land here. I’ve cc’d him here. Arjunan, please compromise if you want to actually help people. Work with the government of Sri Lanka.