SL's persecuted & disillusioned Tamils

May 1, 2010 Comments Off on SL's persecuted & disillusioned Tamils

The Guardian – Sri Lanka must listen to its people

After a bloody civil war that followed an oppressive history of the Tamils, the government would do well to heed the diaspora

by Nash Colundalur

In May last year the Sri Lankan government announced with immense relief and euphoria, the killing of Velupillai Prabhakaran, the chief of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The Sri Lankan army had been trailing him for decades in the north-eastern jungles. With his death ended the 26-year war for a separate homeland that had claimed more that 70,000 lives.

Prabhakaran had stockpiled enough supremacy to set up a de facto government in the north-east. At the summit of his powers he had lashed out mercilessly at his enemies. Both sides had been routinely accused of gross human rights violations. The LTTE is alleged to have coerced child soldiers into conscription. Civil liberty contraventions by the Sri Lankan army is said to have spiralled during the 2009 offensive against the LTTE.

With the end of the war, though the broad feeling is that of relief, most Sri Lankan Tamils clutching at straws and worn out by decades of war are languishing, held compulsorily in camps. To the concern of the international community, it became requisite for all Tamils living in the country to register with the government. The Sinhalese president Mahinda Rajapakse has promised to rehabilitate all of them, except those accused of being directly implicated with the LTTE. The argument for a separate homeland lays dampened. The Tamil National Alliance, the principal ethnic Tamil political party, has relinquished its demand for a Tamil state. But patriotism is riding high in the Sri Lankan diaspora in the UK with 99.33 % of them in favour of an independent state. More

The living conditions of "freed" IDPs

April 5, 2010 Comments Off on The living conditions of "freed" IDPs

Hindustan Times – 1.9 lakh Tamils resettled in Lanka, yet no relief in sight

by Sutirtho Patranobis

The Sri Lankan government claims to have resettled more than 1.9 lakh displaced Tamils. But for thousands of the resettled the problems are far from over; a release from military-guarded camps hasn’t exactly translated into a new, bright beginning.

For one, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in Sri Lanka has suspended the distribution of shelter cash grants to displaced returnees due to shortfalls in funding, the UN report said last week. The funding, the report added, was suspended from March 8.

“The level of services decreased at the beginning of March due to funding gaps, the report said, adding that shelter agencies were challenged to secure funds for and build permanent housing in a timeframe corresponding with the pace of returns. More

GOSL denies aid agencies & Tamils suffer

April 1, 2010 § 1 Comment

The Economist – Aid rows in Sri Lanka – Imperfect Peace

Nearly a year after the end of Sri Lanka’s long civil war, life remains grim for hundreds of thousands of Tamils in the north of the country, displaced in the final months of fighting. Now they face a new threat. International agencies are running out of funds to meet their needs, after the government’s rejection of a United Nations-led mechanism for channelling humanitarian assistance to the country. By March 25th only $15m had been promised for the year, just 4% of the estimated total required for humanitarian aid in the camps and return areas.

To tide over the immediate crisis, the UN’s Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is poised to announce a three-month package of assistance for “urgent life-saving activities”. The money, from an OCHA emergency fund, will cover the supply of water, food, emergency shelter, sanitation and health care to those still in displacement camps. More

Aid agencies, however, say that more than a short-term cash injection is needed. Until permanent housing is built, many of the displaced will go back to their villages to live in shacks with little hope of paid employment and scant access to basic services. The agencies urge the government to secure funds for the whole year. But this process has been stymied by an ugly spat over the procedure for raising aid. More

Update 2 days out from elections

January 24, 2010 Comments Off on Update 2 days out from elections

BBC News (23/01) –  Sri Lanka campaign enters final day

by Charles Haviland

Although the war in the north of the island is now over, the campaign in other parts of the island has become bitter, violent and personal.

The two main candidates are both closely associated with the government’s defeat of the Tamil Tigers last May.

But now President Mahinda Rajapaksa and General Sarath Fonseka have fallen out bitterly.

Groups monitoring the conduct of the campaign say there have been hundreds of violent incidents, resulting in four deaths and many more wounded. More

The Hindu (23/01) – Fonseka alleges bid to rig polls

by B. Muralidhar Reddy

Hours before the close of the official campaign for the crucial January 26 Sri Lanka Presidential election, the common opposition consensus candidate and retired Army Chief Sarath Fonseka accused the incumbent President and his chief opponent in the polls Mahinda Rajapaksa of getting ready to rig the polls.

Claiming that he was far ahead of Mr. Rajapaksa, who is seeking a second endorsement for his office two years ahead of his first tenure, the retired General asserted that he would emerge victorious in the election. “I began this campaign with no political background and today I am confident that overwhelming majority of the people are with me. We know for a fact that 90 per cent of the votes in the postal vote are in our favour”, he maintained.

The main opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe of the United National Party (UNP), the ultra-nationalist Janatha Vimukthi Perumana (JVP) leader, Somawansa Amarasinghe and chief of Democratic People’s Front (DPF), Mano Ganesan present on the occasion declared that they would take to streets if the Rajapaksa Government attempted to rig the election. More

Transcurrent – The Two Elections in 2010: End of History for the NE Tamils or, A Fresh Beginning?

by Jolly Somasundaram

1. The Problem – The End of History

“War does not determine who is right: it just determines who is left,” wrote Bertrand Russel. The NE Tamils (who include those from this region living elsewhere in the island), never had it so bad. Toronto and London had replaced Jaffna as the two largest population centres of the NE Tamils. For twenty years, the NE had undergone de-development, becoming the most backward part of Sri Lanka (worse than Uva) under any criterion of development- poverty, educational achievement, health, infrastructure etc.The position of first minority, in numbers, has been ceded to the Muslims. For over two decades, the NE Tamils were unable to exercise their free franchise, a position to which they had fallen, after supporting the disenfranchisement of the Plantation Tamils.

They had been helpless- except to bleat- when 300,000 of their civilians were incarcerated in foetid military prison camps in the Wanni (jokingly called humanitarian centres by the government) without even their elected representatives having access to them, not to mention the media or the UNHCR. (The army would not dared have such massive camps in the South, after the end of the two southern uprisings.) More

Independent Minds (22/01) – Can the new King of Sri Lanka bring deliverance to the Tamils

by Richard Dixon

Also appears in The UK Telegraph

From North to the South, West to the East, the skies of Sri Lanka are now filled with the empty and virtual deceptive promises of two desperate presidential candidates. While the Sri Lankan politicians are beating their drums, While the so called war heroes of the nation are busy launching mudslinging campaigns against each other, while the strategic think tanks with geopolitical interests are making last minute manoeuvres to influence the outcome of the election, while the local business leaders, industrialists and bankers are speculating the election results, Sri Lankan Tamils are still on their knees praying what they have always prayed “Deliver is from the evil one”

Their voices are suppressed. They have lost their strength to fight back the oppression. But their heart cries are obvious. “Free thousands of our loved ones who are going through hunger and torture in the notorious Sri Lankan prisons,”, “Give us back our homes and lands”, “Give us the freedom to work in our own farms and fish in our own waters”, “Stop abducting our sons and daughters” “stop abusing, torturing, raping and murdering our children”, “Stop destroying our culture”, “Give us back the freedom that we were all born with as humans on this planet”

Can the new King of Sri Lanka bring deliverance to the Tamils? If we look at the history of Sri Lanka particularly in the last sixty five years, the answer to this question will be quite obvious. More

Transcurrents (22/01) – Why I am voting for Sarath Fonseka

By Samanmalee Unanthenna

University of Colombo / University of Heidelberg

When rumours started circulating some months ago of the possibility of Sarath Fonseka being a Presidential candidate, I was horrified. As the rumours at the time linked him to the JVP, I immediately contacted a couple of my JVP friends and berated them soundly for what I believed at that time to be a disastrous decision.

My main argument was that a battle between SF and MR would leave ethnic minorities with no presidential candidate to choose between and more dangerously provide a clear signal of their increasing marginalisation from political power. The nomination of SF confirmed to me that the Sri Lankan state was unabashedly and arrogantly strengthening itself as a Sinhala state.

SF had not won my respect as a military commander. While I had always been a critique of the totalitarian and despotic nature of the LTTE, I did not believe that a brutal state military response that appeared to have little regard for civilians and was brutal towards dissenters was any better. More

Update on the camps

December 4, 2009 Comments Off on Update on the camps

AFP –Sri Lanka keeps up media ban on war refugees

Sri Lanka has maintained its ban on journalists reporting the plight of war-displaced civilians who have been allowed out of their internment camps, officials said Friday.

Foreign minister Rohitha Bogollagama declared in a BBC interview Tuesday that the media now had full access, prompting a flood of requests from reporters to travel to the former war zone in the north.

But restrictions on visits to the northern district of Vavuniya where the government maintains its camp complex remain in place despite them being declared “open” on Tuesday.

“The restrictions on journalists to visit displaced people in camps have not been relaxed yet,” Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe told reporters. More

Reuters India – Sri Lanka: bulk of refugees still in transit camps

UNHCR – Sri Lanka Humanitarian Update

Many details still unclear

December 2, 2009 Comments Off on Many details still unclear

The Guardian – Sri Lanka announces limited freedom for detained Tamil refugees

There have been two types of released person: one appears to be families who will be allowed to return to their birthplaces and have to make regular reports to the police; the other is a group of people who are expected to return to the camps after a set period of time.

The UN gave a cautious welcome to the move.

“We see it as a form of release … which is not ideal but is a step forward from having people encased in barbed wire,” said Gordon Weiss, a spokesman for the UN in Colombo. “We do expect everyone to be allowed home by the deadline set by the government of 31 January.”

The Independent – Farah Mihlar: A welcome step, but crisis of displaced people is far from over

…It is also not yet clear how the military plans to monitor the movement of the IDPs, who are only allowed to leave for some days. It is also not known what the consequences would be if a person does not return to the camp. Could they be arrested? Or would a family member be held responsible? In the past few months in Sri Lanka, according to local human rights activists between 13,000 and 20,000 people have been arrested in the camps on suspicion of being involved with the LTTE. Enabling IDPs to move freely should not lead to other human rights violations such as arbitrary arrest, detention or disappearances.

SL Govt claims "free to leave"

December 1, 2009 Comments Off on SL Govt claims "free to leave"

BBC – Sri Lanka war displaced ‘free to leave’ military camps

More than 100,000 displaced people in military-run camps in northern Sri Lanka will be allowed “free movement” from Tuesday.

Up to now, Tamils in the camps who were displaced by the war were not allowed to come and go at will.

The government says the camp-dwellers will now be free to leave after giving their details to the authorities.

But with northern Sri Lanka devastated and mined, some of the displaced will want to stay on in the camps for now.  More

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