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Unable to Face The Shocking Truth The French NGO (ACF) Quits the Presidential Commission Probe
Sinna Manni | 10 Apr 2008

Massacre of 17 aid workers at Muttur:

The presidential inquiry into the massacre of 17 aid workers employed by the
French aid agency Action Against Hunger (ACF) in the first week of August
2006 has taken a dramatic turn with the Agency quitting the proceedings.


The Counsel for the ACF yesterday shocked the Commission by declaring that
his client would no longer be involved in the process.


The ACF's made its move against the backdrop of the shocking revelation that
the agency's Trincomalee-based office had prevented workers attached to its
Muttur Office from leaving the area as heavy clashes erupted between the
army and the LTTE.


The army reinforcements had moved in after LTTE launched a multi-pronged
assault on Muttur and neighbouring areas in the first week of August. They
almost succeeded in overwhelming security forces before a series of ground
attacks backed by air and artillery support broke the backbone of the enemy.


The ACF's Counsel told a stunned Commission that he would continue to
represent a relative of a victim. The Commission has expressed concern over
the unexpected development.


Several relatives of the 17 aid workers cross examined by Gomin Dayasri,
Counsel for the army, acknowledged their relatives had the opportunity to
join thousands of civilians who fled the area. Witness quoted the slain
workers as saying they remained in Muttur on the orders of the ACF.


The Island learns ACF personnel who had a suite at JAIC Hilton had already
left.


The fresh controversy comes close on the heels of Dayasri's call to D.
Nesiah, a member of the Commission to quit as he also represented the
interests of the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) which is also a party
to the proceedings. The CPA is among several NGOs pressing the government to
bring perpetrators of the Muttur massacre before a court of law.


SCOPP Chief Rajiva Wijesinha earlier called that the ACF should be
investigated for asking its employees to remain at their office as the army
and the LTTE battled for supremacy.


"I have argued before that we have not dealt firmly enough with the original
reason for the tragedy, which was the utter irresponsibility of the ACF
organisation in putting such workers at risk," Wijesinha wrote to Disaster
Management and Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe. "I would
therefore respectfully request that the government ask that an independent
inquiry be conducted into the circumstances."