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Date: 11th October 2009
Source : Tamil Writers Guild


When the Sri Lankan Army marched through the battle zone of Mulliyavallai in May 2009, the Sri Lankan government and their cohorts behind the scene thought everything was over, done and dusted. After bombing the safe zones to flush out the civilians caught up between the warring factions, the government started rehabilitation camps for the civilians. In one day alone, 80,000 people walked into the government camps. The numbers steadily increased to more than 300,000 and that was a shock to the international community as the Sri Lankan government always claimed that there were only 70,000 civilians in the safe zone.

Victory celebrations in Colombo were tarnished by the news that dead bodies were lying on the beaches of Mullaitive and the problem of handling the Internally Displaced People (IDPs) became a huge task for the government, which never experienced a similar challenge before. Ever since that exodus, the handling of the IDPs has put the government on its back foot to defend the indefensible. The government asked for financial help from the west, even though they didn't want any lectures on human rights from them.

In London when the SL Foreign Secretary visited his counterpart David Miliband in June 2009, he gave an assurance that all IDPs would be resettled in their own villages within 180 days, but carefully avoided stating when this period was starting from. One assumes that it started from mid May 2009. By mid October, 150 days have elapsed and by simple arithmetic 250,000 IDPs should have been dealt with. Instead, only 10,000 IDPs have been moved to some other holding camps in the north. This is yet another testimony to confirm that Sri Lankan government's words are not always matched by their deeds. Meanwhile, The Times newspaper reported that around 1400 IDPs are dying weekly.

It's beyond belief that the international observers are totally blind, insensitive and callous to the suffering of the innocent children and the elderly amongst the IDPs. They are kept against their will, without freedom of movement, in oven like tents and exposed to the elements in inclement weather. Many thousands of people have already suffered due to the three day rain in the camps in August. What will be their plight when the real monsoon starts? British International Development Minister Mike Foster, said after visiting Menik farm where SL holds more than a quarter of million displaced Tamils, the internees " are in dire humanitarian need of being allowed out of the internment camps which face flash floods in Sri Lanka's monsoons. Although conditions have improved, the tents are basically disintegrating. With the monsoons, we will have sewage floating around - water borne diseases will be rife"

They are kept behind barbed wire as if they are criminals in concentration camps. According to those who have come out of those camps, starvation and malnutrition are prevalent. Children are deprived of their basic needs to study and they are in an environment that is not conducive for education. The traumatic experience of these children cannot be quantified. A recent escapee from Chettikulam camp told Amnesty International how some women had to give birth in front of strangers without privacy. How low can one's dignity go under this dreadful government? The IDP's forefathers were united with the Sinhalese and fought shoulder to shoulder to gain independence.

The UN which is the custodian of democratic and human rights, not only failed to implement a cease fire but failed even further for not insisting on UN representation at the recording centres. After Kosovo and Darfur, the UN failed miserably for the third time in Sri Lanka. Which means the UN charter is not worth the paper it's written on. Some countries consult with each other and decide their own agenda. No wonder a former Sri Lankan Foreign Minister said that UN is so powerless and it is only good enough to organise world health immunisation.

The dire situation of the IDPs has brought fundamental issues to the international stage. In fact, the treatment of the innocent Tamils and the entire Tamil question has attained more prominence in the past six months than during the decades of armed struggle. This is where the cruel treatment of the Tamils has backfired on the government. It has been proved that the government didn't care about the Tamils and allowed them to languish behind barbed wire. The longer the IDPs are kept in these concentration camps, the harder it would be to win hearts and minds. Some may have come to the logical conclusion that justice cannot be expected from the SL government and the two nations can not share power in the future.

There are signs that the west is running out of patience and has indicated that the financial aid to the camps can not be continued. There is a consensus on this among the donor countries. The U.S. President Barack Obama, who has just received a Nobel Prize for Peace should give priority to the Tamil IDPs and for a long lasting solution in Sri Lanka. Faith, according to the Good Book, is useless unless it is backed by good deeds.

But the long suffering Tamils, both in Sri Lanka and abroad do know that it's not all over for them yet and ultimately, their lost freedom will be restored! Whether their freedom and dignity will be brought about by an internal or external power is the question that time will answer.


Joachim Anand B.Sc.,

Tamil Writers Guild, UK

Source: Tamil Writers Guild
Date: 11th October 2009

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