Showing posts with label IDPs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label IDPs. Show all posts

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Signs of lakhs of Sri Lankan IDPs losing their franchise: All the 22 Candidates, political parties silent

(December 24, Colombo - Lanka Polity) Media spokesman for Campaign for Free and Fair elections (CAFFE), Keerthi Tennekoon regretted that no political party has taken any action to protect the voting rights of the IDPs in the North.

Not only the Elections Commissioner and the govt. officials, but the political parties too have a grave responsibility to safeguard the voting rights of the IDPs in Jaffna and the Wanni Districts. These parties who are representatives of the people should take crucial measures to provide the IDPs with the right to vote. Yet, a majority of the candidates who are contesting the Presidential elections are indifferent to this need.

The deadline for the IDPs in the North to register for polling expires tomorrow 24th December.Until 22nd Dec. only 2600 had handed over their application forms for the voting in Jaffna. In Wanni only 13, 000 have handed over. Accordingly, lakhs and lakhs of IDPS in the North will be deprived of their franchise for the upcoming Presidential elections.

CAFFE insists that the candidates and political parties must take decisive steps to ensure that these IDPs in the North who have after 30 years got the opportunity to vote shall somehow be secured the right of franchise. Signs of lakhs of IDPs losing their franchise: All the 22 Candidates, political parties silent

Media spokesman for Campaign for Free and Fair elections (CAFFE), Keerthi Tennekoon regretted that no political party has taken any action to protect the voting rights of the IDPs in the North.

Not only the Elections Commissioner and the govt. officials, but the political parties too have a grave responsibility to safeguard the voting rights of the IDPs in Jaffna and the Wanni Districts. These parties who are representatives of the people should take crucial measures to provide the IDPs with the right to vote. Yet, a majority of the candidates who are contesting the Presidential elections are indifferent to this need.

The deadline for the IDPs in the North to register for polling expires tomorrow 24th December.Until 22nd Dec. only 2600 had handed over their application forms for the voting in Jaffna. In Wanni only 13, 000 have handed over. Accordingly, lakhs and lakhs of IDPS in the North will be deprived of their franchise for the upcoming Presidential elections.

CAFFE insists that the candidates and political parties must take decisive steps to ensure that these IDPs in the North who have after 30 years got the opportunity to vote shall somehow be secured the right of franchise.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Freedom offered by Sri Lanka government to Tamil IDPs backlashes


(December 21, Colombo - Lanka Polity) Sri Lanka government says it has opened the main highway from Colombo to Jaffna and people now can travel on the road without passes issued by the Ministry of Defense. The government has sped up the resettlement of Tamil refugees and say they provide all facilities to the people 'liberated' from the iron arm of the defeated Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE).


President Mahinda Rajapakse has called an early presidential to get himself elected for a second term before the warmth of the war victory wanes. However, with the ex-Army Commander Sarath Fonseka's coming forward as the opposition common candidate, Sinhala polity is divided and the winner of the presidential depends on minority votes.


President Mahinda Rajapakse has directed his powerful brother Basil Rajapakse, an adviser, for bargaining votes for freedom among the desperate Tamil IDPs. As a result, the Tamils of Vanni now enjoy better treatment from the 'liberator.'


But the 'freedom' also has repercussions. People are on the verge of opening their mouths on the experiences in the hands of the 'liberators' who are now facing war crime allegations due to the inhuman conduct in the final phase of war.


At least one Tamil woman who lived in the government declared 'no fire zone' until 'liberated' by the 'humanitarian operation' of the state security forces has opened her mouth to global media. Thamilvani Gnanakumar, 25, was in the 'no-fire zone' assisting people in health care and she was released after confining her for several months in Manik Farm 'welfare village' what she calls a concentration camp. Vani, a biomedical graduate, is a Sri Lankan origin UK citizen and talked to The Observer from her house in Essex describing her harrowing experience.

She says she waited until now to reveal the full scale of her ordeal in the hope of avoiding reprisals against friends and family held with her. They have now been released after the Sri Lankan government bowed to international pressure this month and opened the camps.


Following are several excerpts from her interview with the UK newspaper:

"It was a concentration camp, where people were not even allowed to talk, not even allowed to go near the fences.

"They were kept from the outside world. The government didn't want people to tell what happened to them, about the missing or the disappearances or the sexual abuse. They didn't want anyone to know.
"Sexual abuse is something that was a common thing, that I personally saw. In the visitor area relatives would be the other side of the fence and we would be in the camp. Girls came to wait for their relatives and military officers would come and touch them, and that's something I saw.

"The girls usually didn't talk back to them, because they knew that in the camp if they talked anything could happen to them. It was quite open, everyone could see the military officers touching the girls," she said.

"Tamil girls usually don't talk about sexual abuse, they won't open their mouths about it, but I heard the officers were giving the women money or food in return for sex. These people were desperate for everything.

"One time I saw an old man was waiting to visit the next camp and this military officer hit the old man. I don't know what the argument was, but the officer just hit him in the back.
"In the same area people were made to kneel down in the hot weather for arguing with the officers. Sometimes it lasted for hours.

"They were asking people to come in and take their names down if they had any sort of contact [with the Tamil Tigers]. They did an investigation and then a van would come in and they would take them away and nobody would know after that. I know people still searching for family members.

Kumar said that on arrival at the camp, near the northern town of Vavuniya, she was put in a large tent with several people she did not know. The camp was guarded by armed soldiers and ringed with high fences and rolls of razor wire. "The first two or three days I was alone there still scare me. When I arrived at the camp I put my bag down and just cried. That feeling still won't go. I just don't want to think about those two or three days in the camp, the fear about what was going to happen to me.

"For the first few days I didn't eat anything. We didn't know where to go to get food. I thought, 'Am I dreaming or is this really happening?' I never thought I would end up in a camp." Tens of thousands of people were crammed into flimsy tents which provided little respite from the intense heat. Toilets and washing facilities could not cope with the demands and food and water were in short supply.

"You have to bathe in an open area in front of others, which I find very uneasy. I stayed next to the police station, so every day I had a bath with the police officers looking at me, men and women. Everyone can see you when you are having a bath. So I would get up early in the morning about 3.30am, so it was dark," she said.

Kumar was held in the best-equipped part of the camp, but even there conditions were dire. "It is not a standard a human being can live in. The basic needs like water and food [were] always a problem. Most of the time you were queuing for water.

"The toilets were terrible, and there was not enough water, so we could not clean them. There were insects and flies everywhere. After two or three days of continuous rain, the sewage was floating on the water and going into the tents and everyone [was] walking through it, up to knee height." She was finally released into the custody of the British High Commission in early September.







Friday, December 04, 2009

Under Global Pressure, Sri Lanka Opens Camps -TIME


(TIME, December 03, 2009) The camps were opened on a limited basis on Dec. 1, and Dharmeshwaran was among the 6,700 who left on the first day. He and his wife had been on the run from late 2007 until this April when they came to Menik Farm. They had two children along the way, the younger one born two months ago inside the camp. "I feel like I have been reborn," Dharmeswaran says. He is visibly relieved, but his freedom is not total. Those who leave the camps will have to return within the time period they indicated before going, and they must give details of where they are staying to camp administrators. Dharmeshwaran went to Vavuniya to find a temporary job. "I can earn some money when I get back," he says. The camps provide basic supplies, but "if we want to buy anything extra it is very expensive." Others had come out to seek medical treatment, locate relatives or meet family members in government run rehabilitation centres for former Tigers.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Amnesty International urges Commonwealth Heads of Government to press Sri Lanka on rights of displaced


(November 20, Colombo - Lanka Polity) In an open letter to the heads of government attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, scheduled to be held in Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago on November 23-26, 2009, Amnesty International asks to use the upcoming meeting as an important opportunity to urge the government of Sri Lanka to address, in particular, the following urgent concerns:

·         Restore the rights of Sri Lanka’s displaced people to liberty and freedom of movement, ensuring that those held in Sri Lankan displacement camps are there voluntarily;

·         Ensure independent access to, and monitoring of camps housing internally displaced people to protect them against human rights abuse, and ensure that their humanitarian needs are being met;

·         Institute a consultative process with displaced people that allows them to make informed and voluntary decisions about return and resettlement;

·         End arbitrary detention; ensuring that all “screening” and detention practices associated with the displaced population are transparent, and are carried out in accordance with legal safeguards and international human rights standards. Individuals affiliated with the LTTE arrested and accused of crimes, should be charged with legitimate offences, tried and prosecuted in accordance with the law and without recourse to the death penalty;

·         Ensure accountability for abuses to guarantee effective investigations, due process and swift prosecution of all perpetrators, including those enjoying political influence and high social status;

·         End reliance on legislation intended for emergencies that curtail enjoyment of basic rights and freedoms and subvert due process.

·         To accomplish the needed reforms and improvements, an independent field monitoring presence is required with a strong mandate to conduct investigations and assist the national institutions to deliver justice in relation to grave violations of human rights. To ensure independence, such a body must be empowered by an international mandate, not a presidential mandate.

Some 150,000 people displaced by war and living in government camps in Northern Sri Lanka are denied their basic human rights including liberty and freedom of movement. The camps remain military in nature. The military controls all decision-making related to management of the camps and the fate of displaced people in those camps; the military severely restricts the residents from leaving the premises even to seek medical care, and denies the displaced population basic legal safeguards.
While the government has widely publicised recent releases from the camps, Amnesty International has received reports that displaced people have been subjected to rescreening by local authorities to determine whether they had links to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). There are also reports that some people who have been released, have been denied necessary documents to ensure that they are safe from re-arrest.
The government has not alerted displaced people about impending releases or conditions in their places of origin that would enable them to make plans about their futures. Nor has the government given the displaced people clear information about their rights and obligations, their legal status or procedures for tracing family members. Displaced people have been given no voice in decisions regarding their release, return or resettlement. There is inadequate monitoring of the conditions of release, and of alleged return or resettlement.
The Sri Lankan government has prevented humanitarian organizations from talking to displaced persons, and obstructed their ability to conduct crucial human rights protections activities, such as providing legal aid or assisting with family reunification.
CONCERNS ABOUT SCREENING AND PROTECTION OF THE DISPLACED
The Sri Lankan government has legitimate security concerns, and there is a need to bring to justice members of both the LTTE and the Sri Lankan armed forces who engaged in abuse of civilians. Sri Lanka’s displaced civilians suffered enormous physical danger and material deprivation during the war. As discussed below, both sides were accused of humanitarian law violations against these civilians, who were forced to remain at risk in the conflict zone by the LTTE, which used them as human shields against the approaching army. Adults and children were subjected to forced conscription.
Amnesty International stresses the need to ensure that in all cases, accountability is pursued through proper legal processes. Since the war ended in May 2009, many thousands of people detained in camps have been subjected to 'screening' by the security forces in an attempt to root out LTTE members. An estimated 12,000 people (including children) suspected of links to the LTTE have been arrested, separated from the general displaced population and detained by the authorities in irregular detention facilities, such as vacated school buildings. Amnesty International has received repeated, credible reports from humanitarian workers about the lack of transparency and accountability in the screening process, which is conducted outside of any legal framework and the increased dangers to detainees when they are held incommunicado. While screening is appropriate to ensure that LTTE combatants are not housed with the general camp population, proper procedures should be followed, and the screening process must not be used as an excuse for collective punishment.
The government denies independent monitors access to sites in the north housing adult LTTE suspects. Detainees have not been charged with any offense, and have been denied legal counsel and due process. Many are held incommunicado. UNICEF has access to former child soldiers detained in specialized “rehabilitation” camps for children, but there remains a need to verify that no children remain in facilities with adult detainees.
WAR CRIMES ALLEGATIONS AND ACCOUNTABILITY
Sri Lanka has recently emerged from more than twenty-five years of armed conflict between government forces and the LTTE. In the course of fighting, both sides violated humanitarian law. The LTTE forcibly conscripted adults and children, and forced civilians to travel with its retreating forces and to serve as a buffer against the approaching Sri Lankan army. Thousands of these civilians died when government forces fired artillery into areas densely populated with civilians who were forced to remain at risk in the conflict zone. The LTTE reportedly fired at and killed civilians who attempted to escape.
Impunity for violations of human rights and humanitarian law has been the rule rather than the exception in Sri Lanka. On 26 October, the Sri Lankan government announced the appointment of a committee of experts to investigate alleged humanitarian law violations committed during the war. The Sri Lankan government has a poor record of providing genuine accountability through similar mechanisms: it has often appointed ad hoc Commissions of Inquiry in the past when it received adverse publicity for serious violations of human rights, but none of these has advanced justice. The President’s most recent proposal appears to be yet another attempt to deflect attention from repeated calls for an independent international investigation – calls supported by Amnesty International and many other international and domestic human rights organizations, and strengthened by the recently released report of the US Department of State’s Office of War Crimes.
ATTACKS ON CRITICS AND CONTINUED RELIANCE ON SPECIAL SECURITY LEGISLATION
The Sri Lankan government continues to justify its abusive policies and silencing of dissent, under the pretext of countering the threat of terrorism. Special security legislation, such as the Prevention of Terrorism Act, and the Public Security Ordinance and its accompanying emergency regulations (intended for states of national emergency, but imposed almost continuously for decades), remains in place and grants extraordinary powers to the authorities to arbitrarily arrest and detain individuals almost indefinitely.
In September 2009, journalist J.S. Tissainayagam was sentenced to twenty years rigorous imprisonment under the Prevention of Terrorism Act for writing articles that criticized the Sri Lankan government’s treatment of Tamil civilians during military operations in the East.
In addition to these restrictive laws and regulations, there is a pattern of regular threats and unchecked attacks against journalists (15 have been killed because of their reporting since 2004 and at least 11 have fled the country between June 2008 and June 2009), lawyers, witnesses against state forces, and human rights defenders by unidentified attackers presumed to have links to the state. The cumulative effect has eroded public faith in the justice system, and has also had a chilling effect on freedom of expression and association.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Amnesty International takes action for Sri Lanka displaced


(November 18, Colombo - Lanka Polity) Activists and supporters of Amnesty International will launch a week of action on Monday highlighting the continued detention of thousands of displaced civilians in government camps in Sri Lanka.

Activists in more than 10 countries will take action as part of the Unlock the Camps campaign. Events include a ‘Circle of Hope’ in Canada, a street march and signature campaign in Nepal, a poetry reading in Switzerland and solidarity actions in  France, Germany, Mauritius and the United States.

Throughout the week, Amnesty International activists based in London and participating sections  will write blogs about the events taking place across the world..

Six months after the end of the war between government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), Sri Lanka continues to confine people who fled fighting in the north to closed displacement camps in uncomfortable and sometimes hazardous conditions.

Releases from the camps have increased in recent weeks. However, camp shelters have deteriorated as Sri Lanka has entered the rainy season, with funds for shelter repair running out.

This week John Holmes, lead advisor on humanitarian affairs to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, travels to Sri Lanka to assess the situation of the people in the camps.

TRAPPED
Around 150,000 displaced people living in government camps in northern Sri Lanka are still being denied their basic human rights including freedom of movement. The military control whether the displaced can leave camp premises - even to seek medical care - and they are denied basic legal protections.

The government has widely publicised recent releases but Amnesty International has received reports that many people have been held by local authorities to determine whether they had links to the LTTE.

VOICELESS

Displaced people have been given no voice in decisions regarding their release, return or resettlement.

Families have received no warning about impending releases or been informed of conditions in their former homes. They have not been given clear information about their rights and obligations, legal status or procedures for tracing family members.

Humanitarian organizations have been prevented from talking to displaced people in the camps, obstructing their ability to conduct crucial human rights work such as providing legal aid or assisting with family reunification. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has not had access to the camps since July.

UNPROTECTED
Since the war ended in May 2009, many thousands of people detained in camps have been subjected to 'screening' by the security forces in an attempt to root out LTTE members.

An estimated 12,000 people (including children) suspected of links to the LTTE have been arrested, separated from the general displaced population and detained by the authorities in irregular detention facilities, such as vacated school buildings.

Amnesty International has received repeated, credible reports from humanitarian workers about the lack of transparency and accountability in the screening process, which is conducted outside of any legal framework. There are also increased dangers to detainees when they are held incommunicado.
While screening is appropriate to ensure that LTTE combatants are not housed with the general camp population, proper procedures should be followed and the screening process must not be used as an excuse for collective punishment.

Independent monitors (including the ICRC) continue to be denied access to sites housing adult LTTE suspects. Detainees have not been charged with any offence, and have been denied legal counsel and due process. Many are held incommunicado.
 
Amnesty International has called on the Sri Lankan government to respect and protect the human rights of displaced people, including the rights to liberty and freedom of movement.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Provide access to NGOs to assist resettlement - National Peace Council


(November 13, Colombo - Lanka PolitySri Lanka's National Peace Council urges the Government of Sri Lanka to permit both international and local NGOs who have staff that is experienced in responding to humanitarian and resettlement needs of affected communities to work in partnership with affected communities and government structures at the local level to accelerate the resettlement process. 

"Since the provision of basic humanitarian needs is a primary function of civil society, we request the Government to maximize the use of civil society resources to meet urgent needs through mechanisms such as mobile health clinics, psycho-social support and house building. We urge the Government to facilitate the efforts of civil society groups to rebuild trust and establish a base of continuous dialogue so that both can work efficiently together to assist the displaced. Showing concern for IDP needs by providing them with basic requirements for survival and sufficient tools to rebuild their lives will also help develop trust between the Government and the displaced people, a crucial component of reconciliation," says the National Peace Council.

Recently, several media reported pessimistically about the resettlement programme of the government saying that the IDPs had been re-positioned in smaller camps instead of resettling them in their villages. Some media said that the government resorted to this action aiming to divert international pressure, to manage the mounting tension among the large groups of IDPs and also for the better manipulation of the voters at upcoming elections. 

Current reports indicate that nearly130,000 IDPs are being resettled either with their relatives or in vacant houses.  National Peace Council says, "These temporary arrangements are not going to solve their long standing problems.  The Government needs to reassure these people that they are entitled to resettlement again to their own places from where they have come from."

At least 280,000 persons who were displaced from the island's Northern Province during the last stages of Sri Lanka Government's war against the Tamil rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam, were confined to welfare centers from which they were not permitted to leave. Hundreds of thousands of people still languish in these camps amidst pressure to the government to speed up resettling them. 

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Will 58,000 IDPs be sent back to their native places before Presidential?


(October 15, Colombo - Lanka Polity) The delegation of Tamil Nadu 10-member parliamentarian that visited the internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Tamil dominated Northern Province has informed the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi that Sri Lankan government has assured them 58,000 internally displaced Tamils in camps will be sent back to their native places in 15 days.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, who received the delegation at the Chennai airport on Wednesday evening, announced this, addressing a press conference later at his party headquarters, reported Hindu. The remaining Tamils would be returned gradually, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister said.

To a question whether the Sinhalese would be settled in areas where Tamils lived traditionally, the Chief Minister replied that President Mahinda Rajapaksa had denied it.

However, the opposition parties in Tamil Nadu accused that the tour of the Indian parliamentary delegation was an eyewash. 

There are around 300,000 IDPs in refugee camps in the Northern Province. Sri Lanka government expects to hold an early Presidential in months, according to unconfirmed reports, and the ruling regime will be happy to keep the IDPs in camps where the opposition cannot campaign. Vote of the minority communities that account 24% of the country's population is crucial for a Presidential candidate to win. In 2005, the boycott led by the Tamil rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE) paved way to narrow victory of current President Mahinda Rajapakse who was supported by the forces that were vehemently against a democratic solution to the ethnic problem.

(Photo: Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi addresses the media in Chennai on Wednesday. With him are the MPs from Tamil Nadu who just returned from a visit to Sri Lanka.)

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

How do people 'escape' from the refugee camps in Sri Lanka unless they are internment camps?



(September 30, Colombo - Lanka Polity) Wording in some of the statements of the state officials reveal the true nature of the status of the refugee camps in Northern Province of Sri Lanka where around 300,000 internally displaced, mostly Tamil civilians are held.
Sri Lanka's Sinhala nationalist English daily 'The Island' today published this report:

At least 20,000 of the nearly 300,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the Vavuniya camps had escaped, SSP for Kandy Ranjith Kasturiratna said at the Kandy District coordinating committee meeting, chaired by Central Province Chief Minister Sarath Ekanayake, on Monday.
 
SSP Kasturiratne said special police teams from Kandy had been dispatched to the IDP camps in the North to conduct investigations.

Police investigations had revealed that about 20,000 had escaped from the camps. They were believed to be LTTE cadres.

Marxist nationalist People's Liberation Front (JVP) MP Vijitha Herath pointed out today at a press conference held in Colombo that these places are not detention camps for people to 'escape'.

However, it is  well known fact that the mobility of the inmates of these camps are thoroughly restricted. Government under pressure from the international community to release these refugees, only recently decided to allow selected refugees to stay with the relatives that live outside. However, media reported that there were many flaws in application process. Human trafficking is also taking place in large scale. Many youths that were suspected of associating the Tamil rebels were abducted and they had simply disappeared.

"Government told a blatant lie to the world stating that it had resettled 6000 refugees of the Menikfarm in their villages although they had been re located at Kaithady and Mirisuvil in Jaffna, said JVP parliamentarian Vijitha Herath. About 40,000 of the Jaffna residents are still in the refugee camps, he said adding that around 2000 have been settled on the borders of Ampara, Batticaloa and Trincomalee districts.



 

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

At UNHRC Sri Lanka promises to create a new multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-cultural and multi-religious state


(September 15, 2009 - Lanka Polity) Sri Lanka promised to create a new multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-cultural and multi-religious state before the international community although the Sinhala nationalist elements in the ruling coalition had challenged this 'multi' factor strongly. "We have to rebuild our institutional foundations to foster and preserve the new multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-cultural and multi-religious Sri Lanka that we wish to create. Our vision is the creation of a new Sri Lankan identity which acknowledges and cherishes the wonderful diversity that characterizes our society." Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe said. 

On Monday, 14 September 2009, Sri Lanka Minister of Human Rights Mahinda Samarasinghe addressed the Twelfth Session of the UN Human Rights Council which began its 3-week long session on that day.  
"Since June this year, when we last addressed this forum, Sri Lanka has made significant strides towards a lasting and durable solution to our long-standing conflict." the Minister said adding President Mahinda Rajapakse is doing its utmost to restore, rebuild and renew the foundations of a democratic social order throughout the territory of the Sri Lankan nation.
 
"We have taken note of the concerns expressed with regard to the internally displaced Sri Lankan civilians by the High Commissioner for Human Rights earlier today. She chose, in her statement, to characterize the relief villages and welfare centres housing internally displaced Sri Lankans, as being no more than internment camps. This is furthest from the truth.  The reality in post-conflict Sri Lanka is very different," he said.

Before his speech, UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillai made several references on Sri Lanka in the opening statement of the session. "Conflicts continue to exact a tragic toll in Afghanistan, Colombia, the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, in the occupied Palestinian territory, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Yemen and elsewhere. An intolerable number of displaced persons continue to live in camps. In Sri Lanka, internally displaced persons are effectively detained under conditions of internment. Humanitarian agencies’ access to these camps remains restricted, and the mandates of relief agencies are increasingly coming under threat," she said.

The Minister said that protection issues were also a concern given that the Government possessed information that some LTTE cadres had infiltrated the ranks of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) and posed a significant threat. "You will appreciate Mr President, that the Government of Sri Lanka has a responsibility to guarantee the human rights of the entirety of the population – not only the rights of the conflict-affected IDPs. Allowing LTTE cadres, masquerading as ordinary civilians, freedom of movement would have posed a grave threat to people in the rest of the country."
Minister Samarasinghe also said that It was the government position that the IDPs could and would be permitted to leave the relief villages and welfare centres once they are screened and their bona fides established. 
"As at 06 September 2009 167,908 IDPs representing 75,009 families have been registered, with 110,000 temporary identity cards being handed over to the authorities for distribution." 

"Since the end of successful armed operations to rescue the civilians in the theatre of conflict in May 2009, over 14,500 persons have been cleared to live with relatives. Over 31,000 persons have been reunified with members of their families who were separated during the military operations. Resettlement has commenced with limited returns being made possible by demining. In the period July to August 2009, a total of 5,331 IDPs representing 695 families have been resettled from sites in Vavuniya to Ampara, Batticaloa, Jaffna and Trincomalee Districts. A further total of 9,994 persons are to be returned to their places of origin in the East and Jaffna during a two week period. Of this total, the first set of returns took place on 11 September with approximately 2,800 persons from Vavuniya IDP sites being returned to their places of origin in Ampara, Batticaloa, Jaffna and Trincomalee Districts. This included 60 university students who were sent to Jaffna. Of the older category of persons displaced between 2006 and September 2008 during the Eastern Humanitarian Operations, 2,828 persons from 762 families have been resettled in Musali DS Division, in the Mannar District.  Further “go and see visits” are being organised for the rest of the IDPs to ensure that eventual return and resettlement is voluntary based on informed choice. "

In response to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights who spoke of access to humanitarian actors, the Minister said along with the several Governmental agencies working for IDP welfare, there are over 50 agencies including United Nations, international and national non-governmental organizations working alongside the government to support and supplement our efforts. 

Commenting on the controversial video telecast by UK's Channel-4 depicting Sri Lanka Army officials executing Tamils, the Minister said the initial impact of this fake video was devastating to the extent that even the Secretary-General aired his grave concern to me when the Minister met with him ten days ago in Geneva on the sidelines of the World Climate Conference. "I am now pleased to announce that four separate investigations conducted in respect of this video footage have now scientifically  established beyond doubt that the video was a fake. We have shared these scientific findings with the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner, among others, and we will be taking appropriate steps to ensure that this kind of unverified broadcast is prevented from happening again." Sri Lanka vowed to defeat these forces who cannot be allowed to tarnish and bring disrepute to the image of my country.  
  
"For those remaining in the relief villages and welfare centres, health has been identified as a priority sector. At present, a total of 81 doctors are working in camps in Vavuniya and 18 doctors are working in the Cheddikulam hospital close to the main relief village site known as Menik Farm......Examinations Department established 10 special examination centres in Vavuniya for 1,236 displaced candidates to enable them to sit the G.C.E Advanced Level examination. It is significant that 166 ex-child combatants also sat for the examination held last month." 

"The Government's programme could be summarized under the 5 heads of relief, reconstruction, resettlement, reintegration and reconciliation.......According to the initial survey carried out by the Information Management System on Mine Action, it is estimated that approximately 1.5 million landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) contaminate an area of 402 sq km."
The Minister also did not forget to speak about the sentencing of Tamil journalist  J.S. Tissanayagam for 20 years rigorous imprisonment by a Sri Lankan court under draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act. "Much has been said about the arrest, detention, trial and conviction of Sri Lankan journalist Mr J.S. Tissanayagam. What to my mind is most important in regard to this matter is that due process was observed and he was detained and tried in accordance with the law within a period of approximately 18 months. While the merits of the case and the interpretation of substantive aspects of the law are purely a matter for the courts to decide upon, as a member of the executive and Minister for Human Rights, my first concern is to see that the law is observed. I already understand that measures are under way by his legal team to file an appeal before the appellate courts of Sri Lanka and am confident that the judicial process will mete out justice to this individual. Indeed, in comparison to journalists who have been detained for over two years in some cases and released without ever being charged in other conflict situations, Mr. Tissanayagam’s trial and conviction by the regular courts of the country is less odious and offensive to human rights norms and standards."  


In the opening statement the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said, "We should all be dismayed by the recent sentence of twenty years’ imprisonment imposed on Sri Lankan journalist J.S. Tissainayagam, who had been critical of the army’s treatment of Tamil civilians. His conviction raises serious concerns about respect for the right to freedom of expression."

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Amnesty International launches "Unlock the Camps in Sri Lanka" campaign


(August 11, 2009 - Lanka Polity) Amnesty International has launched a campaign called "Unlock the Camps in Sri Lanka."  
The campaign also includes a Facebook application and a 34-page briefing paper, both of which can be found at:  http://blog.amnestyusa.org/asia/unlock-the-camps-in-sri-lanka/.  An online letterwriting action for the campaign can be found at http://takeaction.amnestyusa.org/siteapps/advocacy/index.aspx?c=jhKPIXPCIoE&b=2590179&template=x.ascx&action=12651.  
Please consider taking action, through the Facebook application and/or the online letterwriting action, to help the displaced civilians in Sri Lanka, AI appeals.
"These (camps) are effectively detention camps. They are run by the military and the camp residents are prevented from leaving them; they are denied basic legal safeguards. The government's claim that it needs to hold people to carry out screening is not a justifiable reason to detain civilians including entire families, the elderly and children, for an indefinite period," says AI in a press release.

The press statement adds, "Displaced people have even been prevented from talking to aid workers. With no independent monitors able to freely visit the camps, many people are unprotected and at risk from enforced disappearances, abductions, arbitrary arrest and sexual violence.

"According to government figures, the fighting between the Sri Lankan army and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) displaced over 409,000 people. At least 280,000 are displaced from areas previously under LTTE control. A dramatic influx of people fleeing the fighting and crossing to government controlled areas took place from March 2009.

"The displaced people, including at least 50,000 children, are being accommodated in 41 camps spread over four districts. The majority of the displaced are in Vavuniya District where Manik Farm is the biggest camp.

"When United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon visited some of the camps in May, he said: "I have travelled around the world and visited similar places, but this is by far the most appalling scene I have seen."

"While some progress had been made on providing basic needs, much still needs to be done on the right to health, food, water, family reunion and access to relatives.




Friday, August 07, 2009

Civilian life of Sri Lanka's Northern Province normalizing slowly after military defeat of rebels


(August 07, 2009 -Lanka Polity) More than 100,000 of people reportedly flocked into the Duraiappa esplanade in Jaffna in Northern Province of Sri Lanka to see the Sri Lankan and Indian Tamil singers perform after a long time in the cultural capital of Sri Lankan Tamils.Duraiappa was a mayor of the city who was gunned down by the rebels, marking the beginning of the bloody civil strife that took around 80,000 lives in a span of three decades.

The musical show was organized by the government parallel to the elections for the Jaffna Municipal Council.The residents of Jaffna have limited freedom for cultural activities since the peninsula is under curfew in each night for years. Government has deployed 40,000 military personnel, 99% Sinhalese, to guard the Tamil dominated city. The Army to civilian ratio is one tenth there, sources say. Government media say that the tight security has been eased now for the benefit of the residents.

Following the military defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE), that had a great influence over the Tamil populace of the country, Sri Lanka's Sinhala majority dominated government is trying to re-merge the Tamil polity to the socio-economic main stream, however without granting solutions for their long standing political demands of the minority ethnicities.

A process of gradual normalization is being taken place in the country and the government is slowly easing the sanctions that had been imposed on the Tamil dominated areas for many years. The major highway to Jaffna was once opened last week for the passengers to travel in buses. They have to make a long sea journey from Trincomalee in a ship otherwise. The affluent sections pay a high airfare to fly to Jaffna.

All vehicles to and from Northern Province are sanctioned to cross Medawachchiya checkpoint in the North Central Province and travel and transport is carried out end to end. However, the government said yesterday that the vehicles with essential commodities would be allowed to cross the checkpoint without a special pass.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, the government allowed 1100 internally displaced people that were held in camps in Vavuniya to return to their villages in Jaffna, Batticaloa, Trincomalee and Ampara districts. However, no civilians of Kilinochchi and Vauniya districts have been resettled yet. The government has promised to rehabilitate and resettle around 80% of the 280,000 war displaced people by the end of this year. De-mining is carried out with the assistance of the government of India.

However, the screening for the Tamil Tiger sympathizers in IDP camps is still underway and the police last week arrested Kilinochchi District Secretary Nagalingam Vedanayagam for having association with the LTTE.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Sri Lanka's military strategy to curb Tamil nationalist sentiments among IDPs under pressure

(Lanka Polity - July 20, 2009) International media reports and unofficial local reports say that Sri Lanka government's military strategy to suppress the nationalist sentiments among the Tamils displaced from the formerly rebel-held Vanni in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka is under pressure due to international human rights concerns, lack of resources to hold people for long period of time and also due to the unrest among the inmates of the military-run refugee camps.

The government tirelessly counters media and other reports regarding the situation in the refugee camps. Government officials presented facts last week to prove that the skeptical media reports on the mortality rate in the camps were inaccurate and the rates were within the accepted parameters. However, the government has pressed the aid workers to sign agreements to prevent leaking out information regarding the camp life to media. The government has to permit the aid workers to enter into the well guarded camps since they are a vital part for running them. The inmates of the camps are restricted to move out and the outsiders sans the permitted individuals are allowed into them.


The camps cost nearly $400,000 (over Rs. 45 million) a day to operate. The U.N. called for $270 million in aid to Sri Lanka this year, but only $96 million has been promised. "The lack of funds forced aid groups have cut back on fruit and vegetables for the camps, leaving many with little more than rice and lentils," AP reported.

In January, the government asked international donors to help build five camps — with 39,000 semi-permanent homes, 7,800 toilets and 390 community centers — to hold civilians for up to three years. This proposal came under heavy criticism from the Western nations. The government says to India and other international players that the majority of the refugees will be resettled within this year.


In June, chicken pox was rampant and cases of typhoid, tuberculosis, skin and respiratory infections, hepatitis A, scabies and diarrhea have begun cropping up, according to U.N. reports. The camps currently have only about 9,215 toilets while 15,000 are needed, UN officials said. There is not enough suitable land to build more toilet, they point out. 

More than 35 percent of children under 5 are suffering from wasting, or acute malnutrition, according to a July 3 government presentation leaked to the AP.

The Sunday Times reported on July 19 that 14 new encephalitis cases were detected in the Vavuniya General Hospital over the past week. With that, Vavuniya-based United Nations staff providing relief services to the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) have been advised to keep away from the hospital due to the outbreak of meningitis and encephalitis, the paper said. Sunday Times further said while the fatality rate of meningitis cases treated in all government hospitals in Sri Lanka from 2000 to 2005 had dropped to less than five percent, the fatality rate in the Vavuniya General Hospital is about 50 percent.

"Tents meant for five are packed with up to 15 people, water is scarce and the seasonal rains expected in the coming weeks could create a health nightmare, several foreign aid workers said. Relatives are not allowed to visit, although many gather at the barbed wire fence hoping to get messages to their loved ones. Opposition lawmakers are barred as well, and independent journalists are only allowed in on rare, military-guided tours.
Signs of unrest are growing. Several weeks ago, inmates held a protest demanding they be reunited with family members in other fenced-off sections of the camp, aid workers said. Military troops shot in the air to disperse the angry residents," AP reported.

Several hand-written posters were put up in a part of the camps supporting the militarily defeated Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE) several weeks ago alerting military intelligence regarding the developments among the camp inmates.

Meanwhile, President Mahinda Rajapakse said in an election rally in Uva Province last week that the authorities released 3000 over 60 years of age people from the camps and a number of aged LTTE supporters got freedom with them.

Sinhala majority of the country widely support the government's policy on the displaced Tamils and the ruling party is slated a landslide victory in the upcoming elections.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Non existing people (a poem)

I have no identity card
Am I not a man?
I lost my birth certificate
Was I not born?
Valid passport?
To go where if the road is closed
License to drive (what drives)
I cannot help laughing
When they ask for a railway season ticket
Then they ask if I have
A special identity document
I am thinking of my identity for a long time
Actually, where am I in the history?
Who am I?
-Ajith Perakum Jayasinghe
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White handkerchief marks protest against forcible cremation by the government of Sri Lanka

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