Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Britain bans ‘Mercy Ship’ bound for Wanni

The British government has banned the humanitarian aid ship ‘Mercy Mission’ from leaving the shores of Britain to deliver aid to thousands of civilians trapped in northern Sri Lanka until the appropriate clearance was given by Sri Lanka, government sources said yesterday.

The ship was expected to carry over 2,000 metric tonnes of food and medical aid for the civilians in the Wanni collected by British politicians and celebrities, various British Tamil charities and British based organisation ‘Act Now’ over the last few weeks.

The ban, preventing the ship from sailing to Sri Lanka was declared by the British government after serious concerns were raised by the Sri Lankan authorities about the ship’s cargo.

The Sri Lankan government claimed that the LTTE had used previous aid ships to smuggle in arms to the north and urged the British authorities to look into the issue.

An organiser of the mission, Arjunan Ethirveeraisgham confirmed to the Daily Mirror yesterday that the ship had not yet left Britain but said they were hopeful that there would be a development on the matter sometime this week.

According to Ethirveerasingam the ship could not sail for Sri Lanka on the decided date of March 31 as they were awaiting approval from the Sri Lankan government to enter the Sri Lankan waters.

However, according to a spokesperson from the Sri Lanka High Commission in UK the Sri Lankan government might ‘consider the case’ of whether to allow the aid into Sri Lanka if it received an assurance from the UK government that the ship had been checked and found to contain humanitarian supplies.

However, one of the directors from UK organization ‘Act Now’ said that the containers on the ship were being X-rayed by British authorities so its cargo could be verified.

“If that third party check isn't good enough for them, what is,” he asked. “I think the government is being facetious and deliberately provocative and is trying to find an excuse for not allowing the aid to land,” he had said.

However, the Sri Lanka High Commission in London has raised its dissatisfaction and continuous concerns with the British authorities and raised questions about the ship’s cargo.

High Commission authorities had even informed the Foreign Ministry in Colombo and alerted the necessary authorities of a possible aid ship heading for the Wanni.

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