Following the meeting, the Commissioner General of Essential Services chartered the vessel. Few days later we received instructions from the Company that we had to paint the Red Cross at three conspicuous places on the ship in keeping with the denotation of the International Red Cross.
Thereafter the ship was loaded with containers of foodstuff and essential items destined for Mullaitivu and Jaffna. In addition to the ship’s crew, I had two fork lift drivers, one mechanic and one helper from the Sri Lanka Ports Authority as well as a representative from the International Red Cross, a Frenchman. Accommodation was never a problem as there was ample cabin space in the ship.
On completion of loading, the vessel sailed for Trincomalee. On arrival at Trincomalee, the ship was further loaded with containers stuffed with bagged wheat flour. We left Trincomalee and arrived in Mullaitivu, the morning of July 31st.
Few hours after the vessel anchored off Mullaitivu, we saw a small boat approaching. When it came alongside, we saw one priest and three others. One of the officers met them at the gangway and brought them up to the bridge. I greeted them and immediately arranged for some soft drinks. After making himself comfortable, the priest, a Catholic, introduced himself as Rev Fr. Stalin – the Parish Priest of Mullaitivu church. As I was talking to them, he said that since they were Tamils, he and his men were afraid to come on board as we were all Sinhalese. He further said he never expected this sought of treatment. I said to him, “Father, I have 24 Sinhalese on board and you will know of us, our thoughts and attitude during this brief encounter. We are not for war. Unfortunately, there is a certain group in the North and East who have created this situation and we are at the receiving end of all these selfish and self-centred actions of those people.”
The charter continued for about six months. I was so glad; my crew and I were able to help at a personal level, those whom we met in Mullaitivu, Point Pedro and in Delft Island.